Foreign Policy Mag: Ahmadinejad’s Ninja Army?

The U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan sure knows how to write a headline. Here’s a cable from the Baku mission released by WikiLeaks over the weekend, beginning with the subject line “IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION:”

xxxxxxxxxxxx a licensed martial arts coach and trainer xxxxxxxxxxxx, told Baku Iran watcher 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.

It goes on:

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 hesitate to pass judgment on this one way or the other, since I don’t know anything beyond what’s in the cable. (This video dug up from YouTube by Mother Jones‘s Daniel Schulman suggests there are at least some ninjas in Iran, though what their politics are is unclear.) It’s probably worth noting, though, that ninjas have not been a particularly effective tool of statecraft since the 18th century. But hey, who knows?

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