- By Carolyn O'HaraCarolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t get a break at home. His newly approved interior minister, Ali Kordan, has been in office for just over a week, and a fake diploma scandal has only gained steam, complete with demands that the minister resign.
When there was a debate in parliament earlier this month over Kordan’s qualifications for the post — he’s previously served as Iran’s deputy oil minister and in the Revolutionary Guards — Ahmadinejad had to go so far as to announce that Ayatollah Khamenei personally supported him, a rare (and extreme) strategy. Key to the issue were damning accusations about Kordan’s honesty, with MPs claiming that Kordan lied about receiving an Oxford University law degree. So, Kordan produced his “diploma” (at right) and, with Khamenei’s critical backing, sailed to approval.
Problem is, Oxford has now said the diploma is a fantasy. Have a look at the document Kordan produced: He must have made quite the impression at the university, seeing as how they saw fit to claim that his “research in the domain of comparative law… has opened a new chapter, not only in our university, but to our knowledge in this country.” (Go ahead and ignore the misspellings and punctuation errors.)
When the the obviously faked diploma hit the Web, it caused a popular firestorm in Iran, with calls for Kordan to step down immediately if he can’t produce the real thing. The Iranian Web site that first revealed the bogus document has now been blocked inside the country. Some analysts even think Ahmadinejad may have set Kordan up to embarrass his likely rival in the next presidential race, Ali Larijani. Kordan is a former aide to Larijani, who is also speaker of the parliament and looking slightly worse for the wear as the controversy continues. Stay tuned.
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| The Cable |