However, the deeper one digs into the known facts, the more convoluted the story becomes, raising many questions and speculations, especially regarding the identity of the assailants.
Ahmed Obali, who can barely breathe now, is the founder of the Azerbaijani-language Chicago-based GünAz TV channel, having taken an active stance against Iranian discrimination of 30 million ethnic Azerbaijanis, and vying for their autonomy in Iran. He’s been living in the US for 40 years, dodging the tentacles of Tehran’s secret services successfully until this most recent incident. Thankfully, Obali is still alive, but this fact also raises some important questions.
It is well known already that the IRGC has a network employing criminals to do Tehran’s bidding in the US, as in many other countries. However, throughout all the known incidents, such as the attempted hit on Masih Alinejad earlier this year, there are two possible outcomes of such an attack, if it is successful: murder or abduction.
In Obali’s case, as mentioned, the perpetrators did not murder or abduct him, though six attackers might have done so easily. This only leads to a question as to whether it was, in fact, another party, interested to silence the man, whose voice and face are familiar to millions of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran.
There is one important factor which may lead to uncovering the true mission of the assailants and the one who contracted the hit. Just before Obali was ambushed, he came out with several statements directed at the son of the deposed Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi. Obali called him out for colluding with the current administration in Tehran after the latter rushed to the defense of “Iran’s territorial integrity” after he pressed on 32 Israeli MKs to remove their signatures from a document calling to protect the rights of Southern Azerbaijanis.
The letter from the Members of the Israeli Knesset was a gesture, showing support for the discriminated minority – the largest in Iran. 32 MKs signed the letter, and soon after Pahlavi learned about it, he then pressured the MKs to remove their signatures because the letter “threatens Iranian territorial integrity”. He actually repeated the reaction of the IRGC to this letter, calling it «a support for separatist movement».
According to an article in the Iran News Update opposition-oriented media outlet: “Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed dictator, has suddenly resurfaced after decades of silence. He has frequently called for collaboration with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).”
It would be wise to remember that the Shah and his monarchist regime did not support or treat the many ethnic minorities in Iran in a fair way either, so it is only natural that Pahlavi’s own monarchist agenda nowadays is no different in regards to the many ethnic minorities in Iran.
Pahlavi’s visit to Israel just before the letter of the MKs was published, was likely to “boost the Iranian regime’s attempts to portray the protesters as tools of foreign powers and the discredited Pahlavi monarchy,” states an article in Bloomberg.
Obali made his position on Pahlavi’s visit to Israel even more clear: “To invite Pahlavi to Israel or receive him but give him such high media access, to have him walk around and use Israeli media as a propaganda tool for his own future, puts Israel in the position of supporting monarchy when people need freedom. We do not need another dictatorship in Iran. For the past 100 years, we had one dictatorship after another. This needs to stop. He is one of the most blamed people who helped the Iranian government stop the protests. People do not want to protest to bring another dictatorship to the country. It is true we do not want the Islamic Republic, but we also don’t want Pahlavi as the alternative. So, that is a bad idea. How can Israel deal with this backlash?”
Moreover, Obali states it is a mistake to examine Pahlavi’s position when thinking of the Iranian protests which started last year: “The world must focus on the ethnic aspect of the movements in Iran, especially Kurds, Baloch and Azerbaijanis. Strategically, the protests will continue and the government will go eventually, and the ethnic minority groups will have their say in the future of Iran. Therefore, the focus on ethnic minorities will not only bring the end of the current government sooner, but will also stabilize the Middle East, bringing peace and democracy to the region.”
Obali more than once encouraged and implored Turkic countries to unite against Iran, in order to assist Azerbaijan and the South-Azerbaijani movement for independence. And it is important to remember that he would rather see a democracy which can represent all ethnic minorities in Iran, rather than have Pahlavi’s monarchist faction simply replace the current Islamic leadership, as both political factions have shown in the past that Persianization is a common objective. “When the Islamic Republic of Iran came to power in 1979, the Azerbaijanis hoped that this would come to an end, as the new regime emphasized a Shia Islamic rather than a Persian identity. However, the new regime would prove themselves to be even worse than the Pahlavi’s”, as Obali was quoted as saying.
On top of that, Obali claimed previously that “More importantly, Israel, America and the West should think of the strategic importance of the Republic of Azerbaijan, South Azerbaijan and how we can contribute to world security, and how we can stop all of the Iranian terrorism in the region”, yet as soon as progress in that direction was actually made, Reza Pahlavi was there to put a stop to it.
Even Russian analysts from the Middle East Institute mention how Pahlavi talks of a democratic government in Iran yet refuses vehemently to drop the Shah title from his name, clinging to his monarchist agenda and hiding that fact at the same time. He presents himself as the leader of the opposition while ignoring over 50% of Iran’s population – ethnic minorities, thus demonstrating the same Persian chauvinism as the Ayatollahs’ regime does.
It may sound like a wild accusation, but in the case of a sudden attack on the voice of Southern Azerbaijanis, the IRGC, which could not get to him in decades, is not the one to blame. Ahmed Obali is a very dangerous opponent not only to the Ayatollahs. Only the opposition representatives knew where he was hiding, and the MO of the attack raises considerable suspicion.