A Review of the Prevailing Political Situation in Iran
Near-Strangulation and Deepening Chasms
The chasms are deepening. This is the clearest picture one can conjure of the current situation of the government in Iran. Nowadays the Islamic Republic regime resembles a dam, the cracks in which are growing larger and deeper by the day, cracks which appeared immediately after the June 2009 Presidential Election. To one side of these cracks are those who protest the results of that election: to the other are those who disagree that the results were attained fraudulently and who are squarely behind the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. But now, Khamenei’s supporters have exhibited undeniable signs--of serious and deep disagreements between hard-line Ahmadinejad supporters and conservatives close to the Supreme Leader--in the Iranian media.
‘Ali Motahari, son of Morteza Motahari, one of the Islamic Republic’s principal theoreticians and founders, without the least concern for consequences or retaliation, compares the “Coup d’Etat Government” to the radical Islamist Forghan Group, which murdered his father: “In an interview a few years ago I said that, in terms of their sense of self-sufficiency in their knowledge of Islam, those associated with the Coup d’Etat Government resemble the Forghan Group. They are also similar to Forghan in terms of their self-reliance and their disregard for the clergy.” In the beginning of the 1979 Revolution, Forghan Group was one of Iran’s most extremist terrorist groups: it was this group that murdered Morteza Motahari, the father of Ali Motahari, the current Member the Majles.
In an interview with Soroush Weekly (No. 1449), referring to the post-election situation, this Principlist member of the Majles asserted that the country is in a semi-strangulated state, wherein many print media and web sites do not publish his interviews in their entirety out of fear of being shut down.
This son of Morteza Motahari further asserts that had his father remained alive and witnessed Iran’s present condition, he would have found the prevailing situation vis-à-vis freedom of expression unacceptable and, furthermore, he would have taken exception to the prevailing lack of proper cultural structure or restraint.
‘Ali Motahari blatantly reveals another fact about the chief executive of the Coup d’Etat Government—that is, Ahmadinejad: “These people have a peculiar approach to Islam: their perspective on cultural matters sets them apart from the Principlists. Yet another issue is their views on the clergy as well as on the velayat-e faqih (rule of the jurisprudent, Iran’s theocratic state structure). By “Rule,” they, apparently, mean the rule of the Mahdi or the 12th Imam (May His August Appearance Be Hastened By God):
they are far less concerned with the Rule of the Jurisprudent. Their excessive emphasis on Mahdaviat lends more credibility to this possibility.”
He states further that “They believe in a certain self-sufficiency in their take on Islam, meaning that they believe that they understand Islam will be enough without an intermediary. Since they do not have much of a belief in the clergy and sources of emulation, they do not set much store in the views and statements of such sources.” Most clerics support Ahmadinejad out of respect for the Supreme Leader: they support the current government only because the Supreme Leader does.
Despotism is in the Air
Concurrently, Ahmad Tavakkoli, Director of the Research Center of the Majles, called Ahmadinejad’s latest statements defiance of the Constitution and a sign of Ahmadinejad’s despotic tendencies: “I find it unfortunate that the president attaches such undue importance to his own views that he is now actually suffering from symptoms of his own despotism out of total disregard for opinions of others. This is not only a violation of the law but also nonconformity with and abrogation of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic.”
Tavakkoli further states: “I advise Mr. Ahmadinejad amicably and in a brotherly way to observe the legal limits of his position and powers so as to allow the country to achieve more stability.”
Things do not end there. Quoting the Supreme Leader, Hamid Resaei (an MP who is an ardent Ahmadinejad supporter), warns of a larger calamity. And, of course, this larger calamity has become the constant refrain of those who tout the current illegitimately elected leader as though he has been actually legitimately elected. The likes of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi who, until very recently, were considered the spiritual father of the Coup d’Etat Government, are now disavowing any responsibility by denying an association with it, saying, “We have not formed a bond of brotherhood with anyone.”
‘Ali Zakani, a member of the Majles Commission on Article 90 (of the Constitution), and among Ahmadinjead’s strongest supporters, has also said this. He has called the goings-on around Ahmadinejad “stirrings of a new calamity,” which, in his view, is even more dangerous than the “post-election calamity.”
According to Zakani, “In the recent electoral calamity, the movement that entered the fray via enmity, ultimately stood against the regime. But this new calamity is a crawling one, which is taking shape under the guise of Principlism and is much more dangerous than the previous one.”
Things have become so convoluted that Major General Firouzabadi, the chief of the general staff, considers the statement made by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, at the recent gathering in Tehran of Iranians residing abroad, “At present, our Iranian identity is more important than our Islamic identity.” to be akin to an action against the country’s national security.
Certain political observers consider the escalation of political confrontations among the various factions within the ruling body a sort of “make-believe” or “phony” war. However, there are other analysts who consider such differences more serious and deep than the usual pleasantries or exchanges. Yet another group believes that this fight is not all a make-believe war and that it is, in fact, a sign of existence of more important and deeply rooted divisions within the Principlist camp.
Ghassem Sho’leh Sa’di, an international law expert, is among the latter. He says that “This is a deep confrontation between the Principlists and those in charge as a whole. Even if we view this case as a make-believe war, it still does not contradict our initial impression of it. This means that, generally speaking, this confrontation is a serious power struggle within the ruling body. Even if we view this one case merely as a make-believe war--of which there are very few signs, it will still not solve any problem. Even within the framework of a true and serious confrontation, a phony confrontation can exist as well.”
The Supreme Leader, Again
Of course, political analysts are of the opinion that this situation too will be resolved in one way or another via direct intervention by the Supreme Leader. Yet again, things will probably be smoothed over through a meeting of the regime’s leaders or through sermons delivered at Friday Prayers and, ultimately, via a government decree and/or an amicable meeting or two, etc. However, only God knows how long this pattern will continue and until when the condition will remain agreeable to Ahmadinejad supporters. Despite all of the foregoing, most political analysts believe that the more the Supreme Leader interferes in political bickerings, the more his credibility and legitimacy will increase among the limited number of the regime’s supporters who continue to support the regime mainly for their own political and economic ends. Further, the more the backlash resulting from Khamenei’s endless support of Ahmadinejad is tolerated by the Supreme Leader’s inner circle, the more Khamenei’s legitimacy will suffer among his close supporters.
On this topic, the political analyst Serajeddin Mirdamadi told me, “At this time, there are a very limited number of people from various socioeconomic strata who still believe in this government and its leadership. Given the prevailing deep fissures, enmities, and extreme verbal confrontations, the belief, confidence, and faith--even of these few, in the government and the Supreme Leader will become even less and less.”
In any case, we must wait and see how this will end and at what cost to the leadership of the Islamic Republic. According to most political analysts such an end will serve as a beginning of the continuation of more extreme confrontations in the future. These confrontations are akin to puss-filled boils that burst open on the day following the 2009 presidential election and the symptoms of which loom larger and more costly on a weak and suffering body politic with each passing day.