By Shahriar Kia
On November 25, Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), bragged, “Should we feel threatened by Europeans we won’t hesitate to increase the range of our missiles.”
His superior, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, IRGC’s chief Commander claims, “One-third of Iran’s population are members of the Bassij (Iran’s pro-government militias).” Meanwhile, the former Iranian ambassador to Syria gave all credits of ISIS’s defeat to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Surrounded by incurable problems inside and outside their borders, Iran’s officials more than ever find it necessary to talk big to hide their weaknesses. Widespread discontent, a bankrupt economy, and unconceivable repression have astonishingly isolated the ruling mullahs in the Iranian society. The fear of an imminent mass uprising has augmented inner fighting among the conflicting factions within the system. The recent dustup by the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the latest instance.
Ahmadinejad caused an uproar when he nominated himself as a candidate for the June presidential elections. While he was once loyal to Khamenei, Ahmadinejad decided to disregard the latter’s guidance when he decided to participate in the elections. Experts believe this as an indication that Khamenei is gradually losing his power, a process that soared after the 2009 mass uprisings.
Ahmadinejad was subsequently disqualified by the election committee. He then started a sit-in at the holy shrine of “Shah Abdolazim” south of the capital Tehran.
In his speech broadcasted by state TV, Ahmadinejad accused the Larijani family of corruption, saying, “we are against this family . . . we don’t accept that the country be in their hands. They commit crimes, put pressure on the people and bow in front of foreigners.”S Ahmadi Nejad continued, “Those who have overloaded the train should get off and, by god, soon the people will throw them out of the revolution train”. Larijani brothers hold three key positions in the Iranian government, Parliament speaker, chief of the judiciary system and Secretary of Human Rights Council.
Infighting at the top of the hierarchy of power by no means can be some personal quarrel between former president and Larijanis. Especially when there were rumors that Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani wanted to run for president. In fact, this is a real crisis for the Supreme Leader and the system in its entirety. These are signs of a system that is faced with fatal crises and is on the verge of collapse. All these events take us to the point that the Iranian regime is faced with a structural crisis. All the factions inside the regime are in a similar stalemate situation.
In last June elections, Khamenei did his best to make Ibrahim Raisi, his close ally, the president. This could effectively eliminate the rival faction and consolidate his power within the system. He failed and eventually had to give in to Rouhani’s second term.
The ongoing conflicts have brought both factions to a dead end. Ahmadinejad, who used to seek Khamenei’s guidance for simplest matters, disobeyed his command not to enter the presidential race. Now Ahmadinejad says Larijani, chief of the judiciary, is a fraudulent corrupt person. In response, Larijani calls Ahmadinejad a thief.
The quarrel at the top of the regime is now very deep and pervasive. The real problem starts within the structure itself, which is based on the one-man rule of the Supreme Leader. ISIS with its caliph is just a copy of Iran’s regime of Ayatollahs.
Despite endeavors to disguise and fit the regime in the twenty first century by running elections, this caliphate cannot work with a president.
The nuclear deal forged with world powers in 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), became the source of political bankruptcy for President Rouhani because he could not fulfill the promises he had made to his followers.
However, not only did Rouhani’s failure not bestow power or unity to the rival faction, but it also paved the way for new dilemmas such as Ahmadinejad’s leaping out of silence. This clearly shows the impasse both sides have got themselves into. This is a structural crisis. Both factions have failed to deliver any solution for the existing dead ends.
On the one hand, Khamenei cannot consolidate his regime, while on the other Rouhani’s moderation turns out to be hollow. Rouhani’s government has carried out more executions than Ahmadinejad did when he was in office.
The solution for Iran is only regime change. On the contrary to the past decade, U.S. and Europe should now bestow their support for the Iranian resistance that is determined to dethrone the ayatollahs. Aspects of change in the Iranian society are now more evident than they were ever before. Events inside Iran, inside the regime, and at the regional and international level are picking up speed.