November 01, 2002
TEHRAN -- Donald Rumsfeld will take to hell his idea of regime change in Iran, charged former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani Friday, after the US defense secretary predicted an early overthrow of the Islamic regime by its own people.
"This minister (Rumsfeld) will take to hell his dream of seeing regime change" in Iran, Rafsanjani told thousands of faithful during Friday prayers in Tehran.
The crowd responded with "death to America, death to Israel!".
Rafsanjani, head of the powerful conservative-dominated Expediency Council, which arbitrates disputes over legislation, accused US leaders of wanting to undermine the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"But they have not yet understood the nature of our revolution and the links that unite the people to the clergy," he said.
Rafsanjani, a senior cleric, also issued a warning to the "very small minority inside the country whose eyes are turned towards the United States," saying they could only express themselves because of the "leniency" of the regime.
He added that the US administration was "duped" by the strength of this minority.
Rumsfeld said on a radio talkshow Wednesday he believed the regime in Iran would tumble from within, in response to a question asking whether Washington planned to move on to Iran after toppling President Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq.
"I suspect that during my lifetime we're going to see a change in that situation over there and that the young people and the women and the people who believe in freedom will overthrow that cleric government and it will fall in some way of its own weight," Rumsfeld, 70, added.
The defense secretary called Iran "an interesting place" controlled by "a very small clique of clerics," and insisted the "women and the young people don't agree with how it's being run."
His statement appeared to signal that the administration saw no need to resort to overt or covert military measures to topple the regime in Tehran, which US President George W. Bush said in a speech in January formed part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea.
Iranian officials have been expressing heightened concern that their country will be sandwiched between US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, if Washington decides to overthrow Saddam by force.
Defense Minister Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani aired these worries on Wednesday, when he warned Iranians to be prepared for the possibility of a US attack.
"The US government wants to reorganize the region and as a consequence Iran could constitute a target," Shamkhani said. "If the Americans are in both Afghanistan and Iraq, this represents a significant challenge."
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