Haggai Carmon: Attorney and Author

The Mysterious Death of Ahmad Rezaee: Whodunit?

Ahmad Rezaee (31) an Iranian national was found dead on November 12, on the floor of room 23 on the 18th floor of Gloria Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.

When discovered, he had already been dead for three days, with a copy of the Holy Koran laid out next to his body. Unconfirmed reports indicate that there was a slit on his left wrist. Since the deceased was a healthy young man, the Dubai Police could declare the death a suicide, and move on.

Then came the discovery that turned the routine police investigation into potentially, a quintessential twilight zone espionage case: Ahmad Rezaee was not just an Iranian citizen, he had a pedigree. He was the son of Mohsen Rezaee, the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Before taking that office the senior Rezaee was the Chief Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps for 16 years.

The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution ( Sepāh-e Pāsdārān-e Enqelāb-e Eslāmi, or Sepāh for short) is a military militia intended to protect Iran’s Islamic system, including the suppression of internal dissidence and military uprisings. With more than 125,000 militiamen in the ground, air and naval forces, the Revolutionary Guards is also used for clandestine operations outside of Iran.

The elder Rezaee’s background made the cause of his son’s death suspicious. After retiring from his elite position at the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the senior Mohsen Rezaee became a political rival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was openly condemning his regime. During the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, Mohsen Rezaee ran as a conservative candidate, finishing in third place, behind incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist runner-up Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the chief opponent of Ahmadinejad. But Mohsen Rezaee could not escape from his dark past.

In November 2006, an Argentine judge issued international arrest warrants for Mohsen Rezaee, six other Iranians and one Lebanese national in connection with the July 18, 1994, suicide bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The bombing resulted in the death of 85 people and 151 injured. This was the second attack in Argentina against Jewish or Israeli targets in a few years. In 1992 the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed. The 1994 bombing and the subsequent arrest warrant earned Mohsen Rezaee a top mention on INTERPOL’s Wanted list for allegations of “crimes against life and health, hooliganism, vandalism and damage.”

Ahmad Rezaee, Mohsen Rezaee’s son, now found dead in Dubai, defected in 1998 to the United States, and sought political asylum. He told officials that the attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires was planned in Tehran. The son told U.S. authorities that he had accompanied his father to Lebanon to witness the training of the perpetrators. In 2005, Ahmad Rezaee ventured back to Iran and recanted his previous statements regarding his father’s involvement in the bombing.

When word of Ahmad Rezaee’s mysterious death spread, conspiracy theorists were quick to finger the Israeli Mossad as responsible for his death. Indeed, his shadowy death was reminiscent of the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas liaison officer with Iran which was attributed to the Mossad. Mahmoud al-Mabhouh too was found dead in a Dubai hotel. However, this is where the similarities seem to end.

Who wanted Ahmad Rezaee dead? For one, he wasn’t popular in Iran. While his dad was still the top commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Ahmed appeared in foreign media and harshly criticized Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. That is not done in Iran without consequence. Ahmad Rezaee was even interviewed by the Israeli national radio program in Persian. For the Iranians, that was worse than the acts of William Joyce, also known as Lord Haw Haw, a British traitor who was Nazi Germany radio’s most prominent English-language propagandist during the Second World War. After the war ended, William Joyce was convicted of treason and executed by the British in 1946.

Ahmad Rezaee also went as far as offering Israel to use his contacts in Iran to obtain information about Ron Arad, an Israeli soldier missing in action in Lebanon since the early 1980s. However, his monetary demands seemed excessive and the promised results dubious and therefore, his offer was rejected by Israel. Ahmad visited Iran frequently trusting that his father’s high position would continue to protect him. He was married four times and made Dubai his permanent home. However, the Iranian secret service suspected him of being an American spy who used his frequent travel to Iran to gather intelligence.

Was Ahmad Rezaee blind to the fact that his once almighty father had lost his power, and in fact became a threat to the Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and to President Ahmadinejad?

The senior Mr. Rezaee was also aligning himself with the former Iranian president Rafsanjani, another enemy of the current regime; was that another reason to send him a message by murdering his son?

The question remains: was it a suicide or murder that ended Ahmad’s life? If homicide, then whodunit? Was it intentionally orchestrated to mimic the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, so that the Israeli Mossad would be blamed for this murder as well?

Eliminating the regime’s rivals by staging suicide, home or road accidents was previously
attributed to Iran on multiple occasions, a state also known to favor black bag operations.
Is that how Ahmad Rezaee died? Did he commit suicide without leaving a note?

Whodunit? We may never know. Ahmad Rezaee is no longer alive to tell, and black bag operations tend to be kept in the dark.