June 4 (UPI) -- In 1932, Adolf Hitler appointed Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, as president or speaker of the Reichstag after an electoral surge made the Nazi Party the largest in Germany. Goring was an infamous war criminal who committed suicide before he could be hanged following the Nuremberg Trials in October 1946.
On May 27, the religious fascist dictatorship in Iran appointed Brig. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as speaker of the Iranian Parliament. Like Göring, Qalibaf is a notorious criminal, his career smeared with the blood of countless political opponents and his pockets stuffed with looted gold. Like Göring, Qalibaf is a former Air Force commander. He is also a senior officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the regime's Gestapo.
Qalibaf's appointment followed the sham elections in February, when the regime hand-picked a list of hard-line candidates and purged anyone deemed to be even marginally moderate. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the people of Iran to cast their votes in support of his selected goons and thugs, despite being aware that the coronavirus had begun to spread like wildfire. His plea fell on deaf ears. The turnout of only 43 percent was the lowest since the 1979 revolution that brought the mullahs to power.
Such is the feeling of anger and frustration at the corruption and incompetence of the theocratic regime, open revolt is now a distinct possibility. Their bungled attempts to hide the truth about the spread of COVID-19 has caused outrage in Iran. The regime claims that around 8,000 people have died from the disease, while the true figures are believed to be in excess of 49,000.
Alarmed at the prospect of another popular uprising that could sweep them from power, the mullahs have reacted with typical viciousness, arresting, torturing and murdering dozens of young protesters, many of them students who have been accused of supporting the main democratic opposition movement, the Mojahedin e-Khalq (PMOI-MEK). Qalibaf has a notable track record in murdering supporters of the MEK. He was an active participant in Operation Eternal Light in 1988, the last major military action of the Iran-Iraq War, when MEK militia were surrounded near the city of Kermanshah. Over 1,300 MEK were massacred.
In 1987, he was appointed as the commander of the Najaf base in Kermanshah and in 1988 as the commander of the third region of the IRGC, rising in 1989 to become the commander of the 68th Karbala Division. Shortly after that, he was appointed chief of staff of the IRGC ground forces. In 1994, he succeeded to the IRGC Basij (internal security force) Command and set up a Basij intelligence service to arrest and suppress the opposition. Subsequently, he was appointed commander of the IRGC's Khatam al-Anbiya Garrison, one of the largest economic conglomerates of the clerical regime. In 1997, Khamenei appointed him Air Force commander. In that capacity, he increased the IRGC's missile units from three to five brigades.
Qalibaf has played an active role in the suppression of the MEK-led protests in Tehran, where he was mayor for 12 years, from 2005 to 2017. He is reviled in Iran for ordering a brutal crackdown by the IRGC on university students in 1999 and he ordered live gunfire to be used against students in 2003, while serving as the country's police chief. He was also involved in stealing, looting, plundering and even offering properties of Tehran's municipality to the regime's apparatchiks, at great discounts. According to the regime's state-controlled media and agencies, during his 12-year tenure as mayor, he stole and embezzled billions of dollars.
On July 12, 2017, citing a "letter of the General Inspection Office," the state-run Iran Daily wrote, "Tehran municipality has been accused of bribery, embezzlement, fraud and misusing public property amounting to 22,000 billion toman." According to this letter, Tehran had given parcels of land in the northern part of the city at a 50 percent discount to some of its managers, members of the city council, a member of parliament, a state security force official, and several other security officials. The letter from the General Inspection Office stated that these lands were priced at unrealistically low levels and with a significant discount from at least 100 million, to more than 1 billion tomans, in the form of 600-monthly installments to the recipients. It was also stated that 200 apartments and villas, together with city land, had been "sold for 2.2 trillion tomans less than the original price."
On Aug. 20, the Iranian media, including the state-run Tabnak website revealed another part of Qalibaf's theft and embezzlement, including "47 secret bank accounts, an unpaid Judiciary debt of 229.7 billion tomans to Tehran's municipality, 497 billion tomans that the IRGC's Cooperative Fund owed to the municipality, a payment of 60 billion tomans and the handover of 80,000 square meters of land to the Imam Reza Foundation (owned by Qalibaf's wife), and the purchase and sale of a Metro station."
With Qalibaf now heading the Majilis and his longstanding comrade Ebrahim Raisi in position as Iran's justice minister, the supreme leader's master plan to sweep aside the government of President Hassan Rouhani and to replace it, in Khamenei's own words, with a "young Hizbollahi government", is nearing fulfilment. Khamenei believes his only hope of clinging to power is to surround himself with notorious thugs and murderers. Raisi certainly fills that bill, having been one of the key executioners during the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, in a crime against humanity now being investigated by the United Nations.
In his first speech to the Majilis as its new speaker, Qalibaf was openly critical of the Rouhani government, claiming that what Iran needs now is a jihadi administration. He said that there will be no talks or negotiations with America. He is clearly following the orders of Khamenei in seeking to undermine Rouhani and set Iran on an aggressive war footing. Qalibaf is well suited to this role.
Hitler, too, surrounded himself with murderers and criminals and they all were ultimately held to account when his fascist regime collapsed. These latest appointments in Iran are the last desperate throws of the dice for an amoral regime that has run out of public sympathy and like the Nazis, now faces its imminent downfall.
Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.