Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of a forthcoming biography of the Koch family, Sons of Wichita, which will be published in May by the Hachette Book Group. Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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Iran: Ninjas Wanted for Political Assassinations [With Video]

| Mon Dec. 6, 2010 4:04 AM PST

You know why being a diplomat is so awesome? In addition to living in exotic locations and meeting interesting people, you also get to debrief colorful characters. Like Iranian ninja masters.

Reading through the latest diplomatic traffic released by WikiLeaks, I came across this September 2009 communiqué from the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbijan. Its subject line reads, "IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION." The cable details a meeting with a "martial arts coach and trainer," who tells an embassy official "that private martial arts clubs and their managers are under intense pressure to cooperate with Iranian intelligence and Revolutionary Guard organizations, both in training members and in working as 'enforcers' in repression of protests and politically motivated killings." From the cable:

xxxxxxxxxxxx observed that Iranian internal security forces are highly suspicious of these clubs as potential vehicles for organization and "combat" training of future protesters and regime opponents. Nonetheless, he asserted that their main motivation is seeking to control these clubs is less driven by such fears as by a desire to deploy their trained membership at will for "special tasks." According to xxxxxxxxxxxx these tasks range from providing martial arts training to Revolutionary Guard members and Basij, assistance in protest repression, intimidation, and crowd control, to political killings. He observed that use of these clubs and their members provides the security forces with "plausible deniability" for dirty undertakings, as well as trained fighters and potential trainers.

The trainer/ninja master went on to detail the exploits of one ninja hit man:

xxxxxxxxxxxx said he personally knew one such martial arts master whom he said was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months in xxxxxxxxxxxx said that the victims included intellectuals and young "pro-democracy activists," adding that his assassin acquaintance was ultimately "suicided" by the authorities (i.e., killed in what was subsequently labeled a suicide).

I never realized that Iran had a big ninja contingent. Apparently they do. And if this video is any indication, they're pretty bad ass.

WikiLeaks: The Hikers and Iran's "Hostage-Taking as Political Blackmail"

| Fri Dec. 3, 2010 8:24 AM PST

In August 2009, weeks after three US citizens (including Mother Jones contributor Shane Bauer) were snatched by Iranian forces while hiking in Kurdistan, near the Iranian border, the US sought advice from France on how to free them. At the time, the French government was working to secure the release of one of its own citizens, Clotilde Reiss, and, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, French officials opened their playbook to State Department official Kathleen H. Allegrone. Summarizing her meetings with two French officials, President Nicolas Sarkozy's strategic affairs advisor Francois Richier and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Middle East director Patrice Paoli, she wrote:

The French approached their hostage situations in Iran by first seeking an immediate, behind-the-scenes resolution before the Iranians brought charges against their captives, and then, once that approach failed, by adopting a two-pronged strategy: (1) relentlessly publicizing the cases with repeated employment of key words chosen carefully to put the Iranians on the defensive, and (2) constant exertion of diplomatic and political pressure, with the help of allies, in the form of regular demarches in Tehran and convocations of Iranian Ambassadors in European and Middle Eastern capitals.

The French officials stressed the importance of enlisting allies that might have Iran's ear, and said they had quickly reached out to Syria after Reiss was detained. Similarly, Richier said the French had made sure to explicitly thank Syria when Iran freed Nazak Afshar, a French embassy employee held briefly by Iran. "Of course we don't know if the Syrians did anything," Richier said, "but we wanted to thank them anyway. It should at least confuse the Iranians."

The French officials told their American counterparts that the Iranians would likely advise the US government, through the Swiss, to "remain calm and quiet" while the Iranian legal process moved forward. The French officials advised the opposite. "Be vocal," Richier said, "even more so if the Iranians ask you not to be." Paoli warned: "They are the masters of stalling tactics."

Ignore this warning, they insisted, because silence will not expedite the process. They argued that USG statements and actions can sway and even mobilize public opinion within Iran. Whether or not we choose to speak out, they warned, the Iranians will energetically disseminate fabricated accusations.

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