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|Protests and Demonstrations - Iran||| Print ||
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
Protests and Demonstrations - Iran
Question:After two weeks of protests and demonstrations in Iran, is it envisaged that these protests would continue? What is the purpose of these persistent protests now that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been elected for a second term? Is a coup against the systems of the mullahs and Wilayat al-Faqih expected in Iran, thus stripping the spiritual guide of his religious authorities? In other words, is Iran about to undergo radical changes? Answer:
It seems that America has decided, ever since the democrats led by Barack Obama took office, to lay the foundations for a host of changes within the Iranian system. Hence, the demonstrations the opposition staged in Tehran, Esfahan, Tabriz and al-Ahwaz are more than just a protest against the recent presidential elections’ results. They constitute in fact a struggle for power from within the regime between a wing led by the spiritual guide Ali Khamenei who wants to maintain the status quo domestically and abroad, and a wing led by Hashemi Rafsanjani, which includes several icons of the regime, be it “conservatives” or “reformists”. The latter wants to mellow the system of Wilayat al-Faqih that Ayatollah Khomeini established and to tone down the slogans of the “Iranian revolution”. These protests, deemed the worst political unrests witnessed in Iran for 30 years, exceed the sheer accusation of election rigging; they are rather a rebellion against the absolute competencies enjoyed by “al-Wali al-Faqih” according to article 57 of the Iranian constitution that stipulates: “The powers of government in the Islamic Republic are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the absolute Wilayat al-'Amr…” Hence, the head of state according to the structure of the Iranian political system has no authority and no influence, and he cannot occasion the changes or “reforms” that the Iranian public opinion expects of him, because his existence and his role are dependent on the existence and the competencies of the “supreme guide”. Hence, most of those who took to the streets in Iran to protest were born after the 1979 coup and they championed the project of Rafsanjani that aims at changing the political system’s structure radically. This is the clearest evidence that the theory of Wilayat al-Faqih and the slogans raised by al-Khomeini are crumbling. It serves also as evidence that al-Khomeini did not build a state but he assumed power following a national political coup against the regime of the Shah, as part of a deal he had concluded with America from his exile in France.
If these demonstrations express the struggle between the Khamenei and Rafsanjani wings, and if the latter is taking over the processes of change and overthrow on behalf of America, then, those who are arousing and leading demonstrations are partisans of the Rafsanjani wing. They are known as moderates and reformists and yet they are the founders of this same regime. Rafsanjani’s coalition against Khamenei and Nejad comprises of the three candidates, not to mention the former president Mohamed Khatemi, Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Lardjani, mayor of Tehran Mohamed Yaquer Falibav, and Ali Akbar Natik Nouri Speaker of the Iranian Consultative Assembly, as well as Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri, the man once considered as Khomeini’s successor. This was before he was toppled by Ali Khamenei’s partisans and confined to house arrest, due to his criticisms of Wilāyat al-Faqīh, from which the governing regime in Iran is getting its legitimacy, as well as his position described by conservatives to be moderate and flexible when it comes to ‘liberties and human rights’. But these were just pretexts so that Khomeini could relieve him of his office, and isolate him in 1988, then putting him under house arrest, oppressing both his followers and family and killing most of them.
America has tried to hide its meddling in the current events in Iran, so that the struggle between Khamenei and Rafsanjani may appear to be a domestic struggle instead of a part of an American agenda to get rid of the spiritual guide and pave the way for the Rafsanjani partisans to keep a tight rein on Iran. To support this idea, the U.S Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton stated on June 16th, 2009 that Iranians should determine “… how to solve the problem of domestic protests on the contested elections”, while the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P. J. Crowley declared: “… we are not interfering with the debate that Iranians are having about their election and its aftermath.”
The nature of the conflict between the Khamenei and Rafsanjani wings is a struggle to take over the reins of power and wealth, as well as all the influence and sway it brings. Hence, demonstrations that were staged in Iran were neither against electing Nejad nor against the electronically rigged elections, as being reported by sources related to Mousavi in the Ministry of Interior. However, these demonstrations in their essence are against Khamenei policies and against his clout over decision making authorities in Iran. The debate between the election candidates is a big blow to the whole system, as it revealed a new turning point in the domestic struggles within Wilāyat al-Faqīh. The debaters have, in an unprecedented move, revealed the secrets of the domestic regime before the public opinion, when showing for instance a side of the political crisis in the Wilāyat al-Faqīh ideology, as well as corruption and political liquidation prevailing within the Iranian regime since the Khomeini era. Hence, the spiritual guide Khamenei was scared when he perceived that the aim is to transfer the power and the role of the guide to the head of state, and that the role of the spiritual guide must not go beyond the spiritual symbol if it is not abolished, this led him to take to the street the day after to defy his opponents, and addressed his partisans: “ Don’t allow the breaking of the solid skeleton, because if it is broken, it will neither heal wounds, nor reform the havoc, we must safeguard this solid skeleton of the Islamic regime which Imam Khomeini taught us. The facts should not lead to confrontations, contests, and then to fighting… be careful and aware, so if you see someone insisting on provoking shambles and turmoil, know that he is either a traitor or mindless. Many observers have expected that Iranians will answer: “At your disposal!” after the speech he delivered during the Friday sermon, and his firm order to put an end to demonstrations and protests, but the subsequent events have shown quite the opposite.
Their belief is that not yielding to the orders and opposing Wilāyat al-Faqīh are not faults in the policy but mistakes in embracing the religion, and sins against Allah. That is to say that Imam Mahdi who has been occulted since 329 H, had entrusted Al-Faqih who enjoys a high jurisprudential capacity to do what the inerrant imam would do, such as heading the nation, and enjoying his competencies.
However what has been happening in Iran these days is neither a rebellion against Nejad, nor against Khamenei, but a rebellion against the post of Wali-Al Faqih, and misgiving its legitimacy. The matter is more patent when the Ulema Association and Hoza scholars in Qom announced their refusal to support Nejad and their overt support to Mousavi. More than this, Grand Ayatollah Sanei issued a fatwa, in which he declared Ahmadinejad’s presidency illegitimate and cooperating with his government against Islam, while the candidate Mahdi Kharroubi expressed his intention not to recognize Nejad as president of the country.
We can observe that the American objectives through the current events in Iran revolve around three points:
1- Reviewing the Theory of Wilāyat al-Faqīh
America is seeking to make the Rafsanjani wing more influential in controlling the rein of power in Iran and it wants to put an end to the struggle between the two heads, i.e. the spiritual guide and the Head of State. Some sources reported that for a long time, Rafsanjani was endeavouring to “… overthrow Nejad through hastening his resignation even for domestic reasons… ”, and he wants “… to play the role of Gorbachev and use his new position to keep his promise of reviving the Assembly of Experts’ role, as well as introducing adjustments in the reference by determining the spiritual guide’s term of office, and reviewing the theory of Wilāyat al-Faqīh. These adjustments may also cancel the post of the spiritual guide and charge a tripartite leadership group with this mission, headed by Rafsanjani. As far as Hujjatul-Islam, Rafsanjani does not hold the title of Ayatollah, thus he is not qualified to be Wali-Al-Faqih if Khamenei dies or resigns for health reasons”.
In an interview held with the Iranian second channel, Rafsanjani rejected the hidden imam doctrine: “Iranians have the right to know the truth that the prophesised redeemer of Islam Imam Mahdi or Twelfth Imam are merely superstitions, time will prove that they are illusions believed by Iranians”, he added: “… whoever propagates these beliefs, he should first learn from the erudite scholars, review his ideas , and then address the Iranians”, stressing on the necessity that “ politicians should not embrace religious beliefs to serve secular interests”. Rafsanjani here is making allusions to Ahmadinejad who stated positively the return of the hidden Imam Mahdi, when he told theology students during a speech broadcasted by the State television: “The Imam Mahdi is in charge of the world, and we see his hand directing all the affairs of the country”, he also alluded that the return of Imam Mahdi is soon: “the government must solve Iran’s internal problems as quickly as possible; time is lacking”, he added: “… it is time to occupy ourselves with our global responsibilities… Iran will be the axis of the world leadership, God willing…”. Hence, the American alternative is to weaken the role of the spiritual guide as a step to restrict his powers, and cancel his post if possible, especially as Ali Khamenei was behind the constitutional amendments made in 1989 which eliminated the post of Prime Minister occupied at the time by Mir-Hussein Mousavi, whose prerogatives were transferred to the president in the first step, then to the Guide.
2- Restructure the Iranian Regime
On the International level, Iran constitutes the main beholder of the Shiite doctrines’ aspirations in the world and it has a certain weight to influence and stimulate the great Shiite number all over the world. It plays a pivot role in the gulf area in particular, and in both Arab and Islamic world in general, hence, the position it takes toward the Palestinian issue is a part of this role. On the domestic level, Iran is living in political isolation and economic deterioration, despite the huge profits it gained, such as through the increase of oil revenues. Moreover, the promises made by Nejad to bring welfare, prosperity and fighting corruption have faded away, while revealing successive administrative corruption and nepotism within the Iranian government.
It seems that the trends in the American policy toward drawing Iran’s role in implementing its plans require bringing changes in the structure and in some principles of the Iranian regime, primarily strengthening the prerogatives of the Head of State and weakening the guide’s authority which may hinder American demands. Hence, one of the most important results of the recent protests is the breaking of the shackles of fear, creating a big hole within the Wilayat al-Faqih regime and shaking the role, the solemnity as well as the absolute powers enjoyed by the spiritual guide in society. These are all introductions to form a large front to lead the required change in the ruling system in Iran. Hence, it is expected that Nejad’s second term of office will witness unprecedented political activity in order to keep up the momentum needed for change, gain supporters and partisans within the same regime, particularly within the religious milieus, and the Republican Guard. From this point, Ahmadinejad’s victory in the Iranian presidential elections is not the final chock in the struggle for power that has lasted for many decades between Khamenei and Hashemi Rafsanjani, for this struggle has caused a friction within the pillars of the Iranian regime, and is a matter that has been allowed to be seen and heard.
3- Open an Overt Dialogue with America
When Obama took office, he expressed his willingness to conduct an earnest and overt dialogue with Iran. The American administration aims through this rapprochement to achieve political aims such as having an impact on the Middle-East Crisis, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it seems that the political milieu abetting Khamenei, considers this dialogue to be a foreign plan for “a velvet overthrow in Iran”, as the Democrats in America are adopting the carrot and stick approach and excluding the idea of military action in Iran. This was mentioned in a report prepared and published by the political research department in the Consultative Assembly in Iran one week before the elections. The report added also that “The soft external attack is persisting in creating a political occlusion that will lead to an unfolding political and security crisis through activists and non-governmental institutions that disturb and misguide the elections”, and “… if the crisis causes the wane of the rule, this latter will also loose its credibility among people”, i.e. the crisis will bring the so-called crisis of legitimacy that will pave the way to another several predicaments. Thus, decision making institutions related to Khamenei and Rafsanjani seem to be more concerned than ever with the mass participation in the last elections, because every one thought it would tip the balance in his favour. As Conservatives are still taking the reigns in Tehran, then any possible earnest and overt dialogue with America will remain threatened by the power of the political milieu around Khamenei, whereas the growing influence of reformists will give a better opportunity to have dialogue with America.
Endeavouring to bring changes in the structure and principles governing the Iranian regime requires much time invested in offensively highlighting the Mullahs’ regime. It is not believed that pragmatics will renounce the existing status quo of Wilayat al-Faqih, not to mention the convinced ones who defend it, and who even do their best to eradicate the influences of their opponents. Despite Rafsanjani’s attempts to keep aside the Supreme Leader, Khamenei’s reaction was very subtle, i.e. he praised the efforts made by Rafsanjani during the Iranian Revolution, after Nejad had accused him of corruption. Mir Hussein Mousavi has clarified that protests and demonstrations will last, the evidences being Mousavi’s declaration to persist in his challenge and rebellion to ward off acts of revenge; to get ready for the coming elections; proving the strength of the reformists to cope with adjusting the process of the regime, changing the role of the president of republic, enlarge his powers, and develop the State institutions within the framework of ‘liberalism’.
It seems that Iran will play an effective role in serving the U.S policy in three priority issues but not related to the preparation of bringing internal changes in Iran. The first one concerns the Palestinian issue; during Nejad’s second term, Iran is to keep its tough policy towards the Israeli right wing, by bolstering the fears of the pro-government parties with more sophisticated Iranian military capacities, and by sending signals of a possible nuclear armament, not to mention the continuous support for Syria and Hezbollah. The second issue is to insure the presence of U.S bases in Iraq and help in the partial withdrawal of the troops by 2011. The last issue is to help in fighting Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as insuring supply routes for U.S troops via Iran. The explosions heard on 5th May 2009 in the city of Zahedan -one of the biggest south-eastern cities of Sīstān va Balūchestān province, near the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan – are merely plotted by Iranian Intelligence Services in order to justify itself before both the Iranian public opinion and the Islamic world on creating closer security cooperation with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and America on what they call the international terrorism.
5th Rajab 1430
28th June 2009