Sunday, June 28, 2009

Battle for Iran shifts from the streets to the heart of power.

It really does look as if the battle for the soul of Iran has moved off of the streets and is being fought far nearer to the centre of political power.

In the past few days, Larijani - who was fired by Ahmadinejad as chief negotiator on nuclear issues with the west - has announced his intention of setting up a parliamentary committee to examine the recent post-election violence in an "even-handed way". In response, Ahmadinejad supporters within the parliament have discussed the possibility of impeaching Larijani.

In a move with even greater potential significance, according to several reports Rafsanjani has been lobbying fellow members of the powerful 86-strong Assembly of Experts, which he chairs, to replace Khamenei as the supreme leader with a small committee of senior ayatollahs, of which Khamenei would be a member. If Rafsanjani were successful, the constitutional change would mean a profound shift in the balance of power within Iran's theocratic regime.

"Although Hashemi Rafsanjani is not a popular politician in Iran any more, he is the only hope that Iranians have ... for the annulment of the election," said an Iranian political analyst who asked not be named. "He is the only one who people think is able to stand against the supreme leader."

Such talk of replacing the supreme leader would have been unthinkable a few short weeks ago, and the fact that it is now being openly discussed speaks volumes about the damage Khamenei has done to himself throughout this process.

They may have bloodied and butchered the populace into silence, but that has not been achieved without a price.

The membership of the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint the supreme leader, is split between those supporting Rafsanjani and those who have gravitated around the highly influential ultra-hardline cleric Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, who is widely seen as both a supporter of Ahmadinejad and the president's religious mentor. Yazdi is also believed to have his own ambitions to succeed Khamenei as supreme leader. Like Ahmadinejad, he is fiercely opposed to the push by reformists for more democratic representation in Iran.

Yazdi is also understood to have a large following among both the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the basiij militia, both also sources of support for Ahmadinejad.

Rafsanjani has long been a proponent of weakening the power of the supreme leader. He is understood to be arguing in favour of replacing Khamenei with a leadership council of three or more senior clerics.

The splits in the Assembly of Experts - the least visible aspect of the present crisis - will be critically important to its eventual outcome. Even avowed conservatives are reported to have sided with Rafsanjani against Yazdi and his faction, suggesting that there are real limits to the power it has been exercising in the past few weeks.

The complexity of the present political manoeuvres has meant Iran's elites have been made to take sides, reflected in the decision by almost half the members of the parliamentary assembly to boycott the celebration dinner called by Ahmadinejad to mark his "re-election".

The battle for the streets might be all but over, but the battle for who actually runs Iran is still very much up for grabs. And, the brutality which Khamenei used to install calm on those streets, might very well now work against him.

It's impossible to pretend that things can simply go on as they were. Something has to give here.

Click title for full article.


hass said...

There's actually no real evidence that the elections in Iran were rigged. See for the point-by-point compilation of election rigging claims and counter-claims.

Kel said...

I actually have no idea whether or not the elections were rigged, but it is certainly true that many Iranians believe that this was the case.

And thanks for the link, I will look into that.