The dramatic events in Iran following June’s fraudulent election have exposed a fundamental conflict within the ruling elite over the Islamic republic’s future, writes former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer. Does Iran seek openness or isolation, integration or destabilization?
“Like all partial modernizers in authoritarian regimes, Iran’s rulers want an advanced economy, technology, and infrastructure, but not freedom, democracy or the rule of law,” a fact that their obsession with color revolutions.
The rifts within the ruling bloc have been exacerbated by a new clash between President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei over the appropriate response to recent events. While Khamenei has adopted a conciliatory tone, disputing suggestions that the unrest was instigated by foreign powers, Ahmedinejad and his supporters in the Revolutionary Guards are demanding that reformist leaders be punished.
Although he is aligned with the hardliners against the reformists, Khamenei appears wary of provoking further division, but he “is stuck with Ahmadinejad, and he is stuck with the Revolutionary Guards and their daily demands to arrest Moussavi,” said Abbas Milani, Stanford University’s director of Iranian studies. “He is trying to calm them down.”
Other analysts suggest that the apparent splits may be orchestrated political theater. “Khamenei wants to try and rehabilitate his image as a magnanimous leader who stays above the fray, and hence he issues more conciliatory statements,” says Karim Sadjadpour, “while giving [Ahmadinejad] free reign to be the attack dog.”
Hardliners have been nominated for leading posts in Ahmedinejad’s new cabinet, indicating “a shift towards figures suspicious of the outside world,” including prominent Revolutionary Guards. Would-be defense minister Ahmad Vahidi, a former leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, is wanted by Interpol for his alleged involvement in planning the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
The proposed interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, is another Revolutionary Guard veteran, and Heydar Moslehi, nominated as intelligence minister, is closely associated with the basiji militia, the cutting edge of the Revolutionary Guards’ post-election human rights abuses and suppression of protesters.