The Strange Story of an Iranian "Defector"

A former Iranian intelligence agent infiltrates -- and damages -- the Iranian opposition in the West.

The Iranian regime is alleging that the United States cozied up to a former Iranian intelligence agent who was sent on a clandestine mission to infiltrate American government agencies. Last week, Iranian State television broadcasted a half hour-long program relating the accounts of Mohammad Madhi, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards and clerical leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s right-hand man, who claims he was sent out on a secret mission by the Iranian government. In the film, Madhi explains in great detail his purported dealings with Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute based in Washington D.C., with all collaborations leading up to an alleged State Department proposal asking Madhi to lead an opposition group in toppling the Iranian regime and replacing it with a democratic governing body created by the United States.

With in-depth knowledge about the regime and its operations, Madhi claimed he became Washington's winning ticket on Iran policy while secretly infiltrating and outing the long-established opposition networks abroad, mentioning many of the Iranian-American opposition leaders by name and association in the film.

Madhi left Iran in 2008 and lived in Bangkok, working as a diamond distributor. He passed himself off as a disenchanted defector who would be interested in joining the opposition abroad. That is how he attracted policy makers who approached him, he claimed, and set up these alleged, sensitive meetings with policy makers and politicians.

As a defector, 46-year-old Madhi was quite popular in the expatriate community. His position and knowledge of internal affairs made him a curious target, particularly as he regularly sought publicity over his “rebellion” against the regime.  In his frequent interviews he advocated regime change and spoke out against the clerics.

“The government has already collapsed," he said earlier this year in an interview with the English-language Thai newspaper Bangkok Post, which ran again in the Los Angeles Times. "There's going to be big changes very soon. Believe me, it will happen soon.”

His selling point was charming. He said that he had “once headed a committee tasked with keeping the regime in place and that now, as an opponent, he could count on about 20,000 backers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, army, intelligence services and the religious hierarchy.”

It was his knowledge of the Revolutionary Guards and insider’s perspective that attracted the U.S. policy makers to Madhi in Bangkok, according to his own relations aired in the film called “A Deceptive Diamond.”  It was a courtship that both sides found mutually attractive, at least, so it appeared.

According to Madhi, the U.S. had long been searching for a source from within the Iranian government who was both a socially and religiously viable candidate to lead the people of Iran.  As a successful businessman who had worked as an importer/exporter for years and one who had reached a high rung climbing the Islamic regime’s ladder, he was the perfect defector for the job.

The film shows Madhi in a conference in Paris, gathering the Iranian opposition living abroad, clearly broadcasting the names and alleged affiliations of the panelists, all central and recognized opposition leaders.

Madhi said in the film that the conference was meant to introduce the rest of the opposition leaders with the group that the U.S. had constructed, called “Circle of Friends,” in which he was allegedly appointed leader.

Before leaving Iran, Madhi held a position with the Majlis Khobregan (Assembly of Experts on Leadership) for 12 years and was a member in the intelligence division of the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

It is still unclear whether the Iranian government planted Madhi.

Yet in the meantime, Madhi dubiously played the part of the traitor turned hero, openly proud of his newfound calling to save the Iranian people.

In a Feb. 3 Reuters article, Madhi wrote: "I realized then that the regime would not evolve." "(I joined the Green Wave) because no other organization has the capacity to link the internal opposition with the overseas elements." he said, communicating through an interpreter.

Perhaps he fell prey to the State Department at the dismay of the Islamic regime back home, who claim to have Madhi in their custody.

Despite the broadcasted statements about Madhi’s assigned task to deceive policy makers and opposition members, Kayhan and IRNA, both regime media outlets, maintain that Madhi was "a deceived element," who is now under arrest for his betrayal of the government and country.  They claim that the broadcast was in actuality a “confession,” something the Iranian regime has notoriously done.

D.C. policy makers and opposition members mentioned in the film and those who surround the story have denied any connection to Madhi.

Meetings with Clinton and Biden cannot be confirmed, but Madhi’s meeting with outstanding opposition leaders in Paris has been documented.

Could it be that Madhi escaped Iran, hoping to make a pretty penny offering information and his expertise to American intelligence officials, but when that plan botched, he decided to make nice with the regime back home, to allow him to go back to Iran and to mend ties with the Mullahs once again?

The bottom line is that even if all of the details in Madhi's account are fabricated, he, as a tool of the Iranian regime, successfully cracked the opposition abroad. Now every opposition leader will look to his or her right and left and wonder who can be trusted.  Madhi lured everyone in with his expertise and defector status, and ended up an agent of the regime.

The most significant outcome is that this will not only eliminate many key players who were mentioned or who fear being outted in the future, for several reasons, but more importantly, where resistance against Iran is concerned, it will delegitimize so much of what the opposition abroad has worked hard to build, particularly since the 2009 election.