It appears already fierce internal disputes among Iranian regime officials have risen to new levels during the first two 2017 presidential debates held on April 28th and May 6th. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani repeated his strong remarks against the camp loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. However, a close review of the debates sheds significant light on the truly disastrous conditions inside the mullahs’ regime.
At first, one-on-one debates were canceled and steps were taken to call off all live debates. Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli went so far as to say, “Our security is more important than the election.”
But sensing the need to inject new life into the election and encourage people to participate, the regime put the debate broadcasts back on schedule. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for a high voter turnout, saying who the people vote for is “not important.”
Of course, knowing the nature of this regime, one cannot rule out the possibility that behind-the-curtain arrangements were made to keep certain issues off limits during the debates, including:
- The criminal past of Ebrahim Raisi and especially his role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners.
- The theft record of Rouhani’s own brother.
- Embezzlement cases involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
- The Plasco building embarrassment for Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a current candidate in this election.
The day leading to the first debate, Khamenei and other senior regime officials warned all candidates to refrain from creating any rifts. A similar warning was also issued on Friday, May 5th before the second debate by Movahedi Kermani, Tehran’s Friday prayer leader and a staunch Khamenei camp loyalist, reminding candidates to stick to “presidential issues.” Despite all the reminders, the candidates took their gloves off in both face-offs.
Iran’s domestic crises reflect social calamities and the unending dispute between the Iranian people and the ruling regime. To add insult to injury for Khamenei and the entire mullahs’ apparatus, regional and international issues have flared into turmoil far worse than four years ago, creating major side-effects within the regime. One such result is the scene witnessed in the first debate.
“Those of us inside this system, who claim to be the opposition, we are doing so just to legitimize our positions,” Hashemi Taba, a presidential candidate, said on April 28th.
This means the regime is so utterly hated and illegitimate that the same figures who have been involved in the crimes of the past four decades are now forced to distance themselves. For those who listened carefully, during the debates there was no mention of Khamenei or regime founder Khomeini, the candidates being well aware how hated the two figures are among the public.
Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri lashed out at Ghalibaf over the Saudi embassy raid, showing how Tehran has found itself facing a major crisis in international relations. Jahangiri went as far as to accuse Ghalibaf of hiring the main organizer of that raid as part of his election campaign team.
And recently, the “moderate” Rouhani’s defense minister Hossein Dehghanthreatened Saudi Arabia not to carry out any “ignorant measures”, or else “we will leave no area untouched” in the kingdom.
A look at the past shows there is a continuing trend seen after presidential “elections.” When Rafsanjani took over this post in 1989 after the Iran-Iraq War, he raised the flag of “reconstruction” and “adjustments” in order to lure foreign investors into Iran.
When that scenario failed, Mohammad Khatami took over in 1997 claiming to be a “reformist,” only to fail miserably, and is now under house arrest by the very regime he served.
Khamenei then resorted to giving the helm to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 to pursue his dream of obtaining nuclear weapons. The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), however, has shed important on Tehran’snuclear weapons drive and continues to do so.
And in 2013 Rouhani raised the flag of “moderation”, all under orders from Khamenei to relieve the regime of international pressures. The debates, however, may have given notice of his expiration date.
Raisi’s failure in presenting an acceptable image and bungling the opportunity to take it hard to his rivals sealed the fact that the debates have so far been a major failure for the regime as a whole. It has become obvious that Raisi is Khamenei’s candidate, and the mere fact that the man who has the final word in all national security and foreign affairs has no other choice but to place his weight behind a figure involved in so many executions is another sign of Khamenei facing a dead end.
The Supreme Leader has also failed to resolve the rifts in his faction by at least convincing Ghalibaf to stepp aside in favor of Raisi.
To this end, as far as the regime is concerned, there is no difference between Rouhani, Raisi, Ghalibaf, or any other individual currently running for the presidency. Whatever the result of this sham election, this regime is spiraling fast towards unprecedented and very dangerous crises.