An interesting item was exposed in Iran last week: the former president Mohammad Khatami paid considerable sums of money to some of the "honorable" guests who attended his conference of mid-October in Tehran on the topic of Religion in the Contemporary World. Forty eminent religious and political leaders, scholars and representatives of international organizations gathered at Khatami's to promote peace and love in the world. According to the Iranian weekly magazine "Sobhe Sadegh", fifteen of them have been rewarded considerable sums of money with funds from the Foundation for Dialogue among Civilizations; an organization whose idea originated back in 1976 by the then Iranian Empress Farah Pahlavi. Since 1998 however Khatami has shamelessly and unsuccessfully tried to pass off the concept as his own, much to the chagrin of all those who go to all kinds of lengths to pass Khatami off to the international public opinion as some sort of redeemer.

The magazine did not provide the exact amounts paid out to the bulk of foreign "dignitaries" who accepted the cash and flew to Tehran. Among these dignitaries were such international figures as the ex-prime minister of Italy Romano Prodi (an old friend of Khatami and the first European head of state to visit Iran since 1979), French Lionel Jospin, Portoguese Jorge Sampaio (currently UN high representative for Alliance of Civilizations), Norwegian Kjell Magne Bondevick, Swiss Joseph Deiss, Irish Mary Robinson, all of them reunited in the exclusive Club of Madrid. Former United Nations' Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, alone was paid around $2.8 million, and this is enough to get some sort of an idea of the generous fees being lavished, and the prices Mullah Khatami and his supporters are willing to pay, to buy the support of some of the more active figures in the world of international political intrigue.

This fact may even be a speculation within the political struggle in view of the upcoming June 2009 presidential "elections" in Iran. "Sobhe Sadegh" belongs to the Revolutionary Guards, and the hardliners faction which support Ahmadinejad's reelection fear Khatami's ambition to regain the reigns of presidency with Rafsanjani's undying support.

Ultimately this is not about the conflicts within the Mullah camps so much as it is a statement on those sleazy individuals within the world of international politics who wish to launder Khatami's reputation, totally wiping the slate clean of all his criminal behavior during his eight years as an incompetent president who squandered the trust of the Iranians who actually voted for him.

As it turned out, the press conference (in the ancient city of Yazd, the former President's birthplace in which Prodi & Company should have blessed their fellow candidate) was cancelled due to threats from the revolutionary guards loyal to Ahmadinejad.

Khatami's message of reform was proven to be nothing more than an illusion, but years into this illusion many seem utterly uninterested in that fact. They turn a blind eye to the evidence that the nuclear development was actively pursued during his time; that the oppression of Iranian activists and students - - along with the brutal and gruesome assassination of intellectuals and scholars - - took place under his watch; that Khatemi is also the man who refused the Clinton and Albright's utterly pathetic (at best) apology, and much more.

These deniers try to pass Ahmadinejad off as the nefarious figure of the regime, the outrageous militant who shoots his mouth off and jeopardizes the good standing of "mature statesmen" like Khatami. But with Ahmadinejad what you see is what you get, while Khatami is the smiling face of the mullocracy, the deceptive side of the same coin, the man who says everything Ahmadinejad says behind closed doors to his fellow mullahs and then turns around with smiles for the western media's cameras, offering pseudo-insightful nuggets to those around the world who wish to refute documentation and facts.

Not withstanding, they keep him as some kind of a gleaming hope for liberalizing the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Khomeinist regime, working hard to find a way to whitewash his indisputably rancid reputation.

The sooner international leaders, power brokers and the media realize that beneficent leaders do not actually exist among Mullahs, the better off the world will be. The only way Iran can be saved is through regime change and nothing else. When will the West decide to foster the Iranian democratic counter-revolution?

Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, a native of Iran, is an activist and Iran analyst. Her co-writer, Emiliano Stornelli, is an Italian political scientist and member of the Magna Charta think tank.

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