June 18, 2009


Iran's Supreme Leader May 'Sacrifice' Ahmadinejad to Save Himself: Interviewee: Karim Sadjadpour, Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org, June 17, 2009, CFR)

The supreme leader's decision to delegate responsibility to the Guardian Council was classic Khamenei in the sense that he doesn't cede authority--the Guardian Council is essentially under his jurisdiction--but he buys time and deflects accountability. He was calculating that if he could buy time, the scale of these protests would gradually diminish. So far, that hasn't been the case. He may eventually be faced with a situation of whether to sacrifice President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose "reelection" he announced, or go down himself with the ship.

'Khamenei Has Never Seen a Crisis Like This': This week's protests in Iran are truly unprecedented, says Iran expert Afshin Molavi in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. (Der Spiegel, 6/19/09)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who are the demonstrators? What part of society do they come from?

Molavi: We are witnessing the return of the Iranian middle class to the political space. This middle class is vibrant, modern, wired, eager to engage with the outside world, hungry for more social and political freedoms, and for better economic management. Many members of Iran's urban middle class -- and its important to remember that Iran is 70 percent urbanized -- chose not to vote in the 2005 election, disillusioned with the failures of the reform movement led by (former Iranian president) Mohammad Khatami. They are returning in full after four years of Ahmadinejad and demanding that their votes be counted...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: ...because they feel cheated. Were they?

Molavi: That is the main reason people went out onto the streets. They felt that they were a victim of massive fraud -- that their vote did not count. They did not go to the streets for a revolution. The case for a massive fraud is overwhelming. Let's make no mistake: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a base. But on election day, the results of 40 million ballots were announced within an hour of polls closing. Hand counting 40 million ballots? In addition, security services surrounded the offices of Ahmadinejad's main opponent Mir Hossein Mousavi. They shut down Mousavi Web sites. They jailed hundreds of Mousavi supporters the next day. However, as the crowds grow, so do the demands, and what started out as protest with the slogan "where is my vote?" has morphed into something larger, reflecting a generalized discontent with the order of things.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It also seems as though it is no longer just like a battle of the people against the regime, but also a battle within the regime itself.

Molavi: The analysis in Tehran is that this was a coup perpetrated by supporters of the "new guard" of revolutionary elite, many of whom hail from the security and intelligence services. Over the past four years, Ahmadinejad has appointed former Revolutionary Guard members and former security officials to key positions. Facing them is the "old guard," consisting of influential figures like former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Mousavi. The clerics are divided, too. Rafsanjani already went to talk to the major clerics and likely warned them that the current turmoil is highly dangerous for the country and for them personally. The interesting thing is: Rafsanjani is also chairman of the Assembly of Experts, 83 clerics theoretically authorized to appoint or remove the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds a strong grip on power. This internal struggle is the most serious ever faced by the Islamic Republic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2009 8:15 PM
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