Iran After Khamenei: The Debate Starts

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Iran after Khamenei: the Debate Starts

Is Tehran preparing the ground for the succession of “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei? Rife for many years, speculation attained a new degree of intensity earlier this month with a number of declarations by various officials, among them the revelation at a press conference by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami that the Assembly of Experts, the organ supposed to choose the next “Supreme Guide”, had appointed a committee to pick candidates.

Khatami claimed that the committee had been in place for years, and had already “noted” 10 potential candidates whose names could only be supplied to Khamenei.

Both claims are open to question.

Khatami wants us to believe that there is neither immediacy nor urgency and that no single candidate could start building a profile as the successor.

Nevertheless, the fact that the issue is raised in public may be a sign that urgency is involved. The bit about “10 potential candidates” is designed to prevent the focalization of attention on any one of the mullahs regarded by Tehran political circles as possible successors to Khamenei.

The claim that the Assembly of Experts chooses the “Supreme Guide” is equally open to doubt.

The first “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini wasn’t elected but simply declared himself as a new Imam and acted as if he had divine mandate. Khamenei wasn’t elected either, but merely acclaimed by the Assembly after the late Hashemi Rafsanjani, flanked by Khomeini’s son Ahmad, claimed that the late “Imam” had designated “Ali Agha” as successor.

Khatami’s statement as spokesman for the Assembly of Experts, includes a hint that the next “Supreme Guide” may be named by Khamenei who will be given “the chosen names” with the implicit notion that he could strike any of them off, retaining the assembly’s position as nothing but a rubber stamp.

In regimes where one man holds absolute or semi-absolute power the temptation to dictate the future is always present.

In other words, the constitutional mechanism for electing the “Supreme Guide” has never been tested.

Foreign commentators often describe the Islamic Republic as a theocracy ruled by the “top mullah”. The truth is that the Islamic Republic is a secular regime that uses a religious narrative; in it, the mosque has been annexed by the state not the other way round. Nor is the “Supreme Guide” the “top mullah” by any stretch of imagination.

Khomeini was one of some 200 Ayatollahs and never considered by others as “supreme “ in anything. His limited knowledge of theology and history and his inability to master Persian and Arabic at a high level meant he would never attain the summit within the Shi’ite clerical hierarchy. Khomeini was a politician and owed his place in the Iranian panorama to the success of his political movement against various rivals and adversaries.

Khamenei’s knowledge of theology and history is certainly superior to that of Khomeini.
He also has a better command of both Persian and Arabic. Had Khamenei built a career within the Shi’ite clerical hierarchy he would have had a good chance of reaching higher rungs of the ladder than Khomeini.

Nevertheless, Khamenei has never been on that ladder.

From the start he has been a political figure, serving as Deputy Defense Minister and, later, President of the Republic.

The fact that the “Supreme Guide” dresses up as a mullah does not mean that he is head of the clergy, and even less that the clergy govern Iran. When Archbishop Makarios was President that didn’t mean that the Orthodox Christian priesthood ruled Cyprus. Nor did Archbishop Abel Muzorewa’s presidency symbolize rule by the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.

Even Mullah Hassan, who briefly ruled Somalia, never claimed he was ruling on behalf of Islam; he called himself Shah. In old Yemen where Imam Yahya could claim he exercised on behalf of the Zaidi faith, he emphasized his political rather than any religious function as a member of the ulema.

Thus, the post of the “Supreme Guide” in Iran’s Islamic Republic is a political one and choosing its occupant is a political process.

And in any domain that is political what matters is to mobilize energies needed for winning power.

Propelling Khamenei as Khomeini’s successor was relatively easy.

The traditional clergy was anxious not to get involved in politics and had no desire to advance any of its leaders as candidate for the post. More importantly, Rafsanjani’s scheme was to enlarge the powers of the President of the Republic, a post he soon captured for himself, by reducing that of the “Supreme Guide”.

Rafsanjani’s calculation didn’t work. Khamenei did not turn out to be the quiet and obedient little mullah more interested in committing poetry than exercising power. He acted the opposite of the role that Rafsanjani has scripted for him by enlarging the powers of the “Supreme Guide”.

Moreover, while Rafsanjani applied his energies to enriching his family and entourage, Khamenei surrounded himself with a new generation of the military, men who now occupy all key positions of command in the army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the Baseej (Mobilization) and the regime’s security services.

If Khamenei, soon to be 78, lives as long as Khomeini he may be around for another decade. But even if he stumbles his successor won’t be chosen by the “Assembly of Experts” but by military-security networks that provide the backbone of the system.

Rafsanjani and his associates have talked of constitutional reform for years. In his last speech, Rafsanjani suggested that the constitution be amended without spelling out what he meant. A similar call has come from Ayatollah Nateq Nuri former Speaker of the Islamic Majlis, Iran’s ersatz parliament.

One idea is to officialize the political nature of the “Supreme Guide” by merging it with the post of the President. Another idea is to de-emphasize its political aspect by creating a five-mullah council charged with nothing more than deciding whether legislation conforms to Islamic tenets. That means promoting the President, which currently has little real power, as head of state, commander of the armed forces and ultimate decision-maker on executive matters.

Radical critics of the regime, argue that Khamenei’s demise should signal the end of the Islamic Republic itself, allowing Iranians to choose a different path for their nation.

Whatever happens next, one thing is clear: the debate has already started on the future of Iran after Khamenei.

Amir Taheri

Amir Taheri

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. Mr. Taheri has won several prizes for his journalism, and in 2012 was named International Journalist of the Year by the British Society of Editors and the Foreign Press Association in the annual British Media Awards.

More Posts

Should The Middle-East Countries Negotiate With The Terrorist State Of Iran And Their Revolutionary Guard?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Should the Gulf Negotiate Iran or De Facto Aggressor: ‘The Revolutionary Guard’?

Iran’s elite revolutionary guard, an armed force intended to protect Tehran’s theocratic regime, has registered disruptive and intrusive activity in 14 regional states. The guards operations in Syria alone cost the cleric-led regime some $100 billion.

A paper written by two Brussels-based human rights groups presented, in detail, all unwarranted intrusions and funding of terror groups carried out by the guard in order to achieve the regime’s expansionist ambitions.

All the more, the research shows Iran’s elite guard stepping up its meddling in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon ever since Tehran went into its nuclear talks with the world’s super powers.

Anyone, party or nation who had firsthand experienced Iran’s bitter attitude and aggressive behavior hardly finds the abovementioned revelations a surprise.

And as positive indicative point towards the United States President Donald Trump seriously considering to enlist Iran’s revolutionary guard as a terrorist organization, it is very embarrassing for any party that still has faith in composed and rational talks being held between Gulf states and Iran.

Iran and Gulf states cannot be seen as counterparts to an argument, as one party orients itself towards delivering progress to its people and stabilizing the region whilst the other is a self-styled state that aims to destabilize the region, spreading terrorism everywhere. The latter cannot be simply rewarded a seat to negotiate what can possibly adhere to its hostility.

Struan Stevenson President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, who’s body published the study on the revolutionary guard concluding that “[Iranian] meddling in the affairs of other regional countries is institutionalized and the IRGC (the revolutionary guard) top brass has been directly involved,” the report said, directly implicating the Iranian military and state apparatus in destabilization operations around the Middle East.”

The report also criticizes the guard for undertaking a “hidden occupation” of four countries, namely Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

The European study said: “Every month, hundreds of forces from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon – countries where the [Iranian] regime is involved in frontline combat – receive military training and are subsequently dispatched to wage terrorism and war.”

With all that being said, it is clear that the struggle with Iran is that the problem lies not with its people or its limited-power government or unproductive parliament, but with its guard serving a bellicose expansionist agenda as stipulated in the national constitution.

The guard is placed just under the upper hand of the supreme leader which positions it at a place of unconstrained jurisdiction and power and just above Iran’s national army.

More so, the study revealed that the guard operates some 90 dummy companies that control 90 Iranian ports – making up for 45 percent of national ports – and which run a whopping $12 billion in annual revenue.

The elite guard uses the very same ports to import arms to its militias in neighboring countries that upon delivery aid in further destabilizing security of their respective states.

It cannot be trusted that Iran is serious with its negotiations whilst it fosters a home militia (the revolutionary guard) that has literally been placed itself above the law.

Iran is far and foremost the greatest winner in the recent calls for negotiations with Gulf states.

After having exploited the talks, Iran will employ a stronger expansionist agenda, buying itself more time to extend profits it reaps from regional states.

More so, Iran will not stop at the talks failing but will relish in having branded itself a peaceful negotiable state as opposed to Gulf states being the ones having ‘refused’ to instate peace and stability.

Should we blame Iran? Of course not, its transgressions had gone beyond that– blocs that allowed for such a cliché and fruitless rhetoric to go into a vicious cycle are those who should be held accountable.

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Al-dossary

Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

More Posts

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

 

Special Dispatch Memri
Iranian General Discusses Shi’ite Liberation Army Under Command Of Qassem Soleimani, Who Is Subordinate To Supreme Leader Khomeini September 15, 2016 Special Dispatch No.6611

On August 18, 2016, Ali Falaki, a retired general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who commanded a brigade in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and claims to have volunteered to fight in Syria, gave an interview to the Iranian website Mashregh, which is close to the IRGC. In it, he spoke of the “Shi’ite Liberation Army” that Iran has deployed on its three battlefronts in the Middle East – in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – stating that it comprises divisions based on ethnicity that Iran has established for this purpose. These divisions, he said, are the Afghan division (Fatemiyoun), the Pakistani division (Zaynabiyoun) and the Iraqi division (Hayderiyoun), in addition to the Lebanese Hezbollah division that is operating in Lebanon and Syria. Falaki explained that these divisions comprise the Shi’ite Liberation Army that operates according to the ethnic model adopted by Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.[1]


Ali Falaki (Image: Farsnews.com)

Falaki stressed that while the Shi’ite Liberation Army forces on the various fronts are divided by ethnicity, their command structure is Iranian, and is headed by IRGC officers under the command of Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force, which operates outside Iran’s borders. He added that Soleimani answers directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini.

Falaki, who said that he maintains direct contact with the top echelons of the Iranian Army and IRGC, proudly reported that he had commanded, as part of the Afghan division, many Iranian Army soldiers who had volunteered to fight in Syria since February 2016. He said that it had been decided that they would be incorporated into the Afghan division of the Shi’ite Liberation Army as commanders. Falaki appears to be referring to February reports that Iran had replaced IRGC officers in Syria with Iranian Army soldiers and to relations between the IRGC and the Iranian Army, which have had their ups and downs.

Like other Iranian spokesmen, Falaki stressed that Iran is not sending Iranian forces to directly fight on the various fronts in the Middle East, but is creating local fighting forces that it provides with “guidance, organization, and management” by means of IRGC officers, and, when necessary also reinforces with the ethnic divisions of the Shi’ite Liberation Army. Wherever “there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized and supplied with the necessary forces,” he said. He added that the Shi’ite Liberation Army was established “because of the existence of Israel,” which Khamenei has vowed will cease to exist in about 20 years, though in practice the Shi’ite Liberation Army is fighting against Sunnis in the Middle East.

It should be mentioned that Falaki uses the term “Shi’ite Liberation Army” to mean two things: one, that its mission is to liberate Shi’ites, and two, that it is itself distinctly Shi’ite.

Following are excerpts from Falaki’s interview on the Mashregh website:[2]

“The First Seed Of The Shi’ite And Muslim Liberation Army Was Germinated In Syria”

“We have certain weaknesses in Syria that I do not wish to currently discuss, but some of them stem from a weakness we have in Iran. From here [in Iran], we come to South Lebanon and support the Shi’ites there; we come to Bahrain and Yemen at great expense and support the Shi’ites there.

“In Lebanon, we found [Hizbullah secretary-general] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, but here [in Iran], we could find no leader among all the active revolutionary [Afghan] clerics willing to be on the frontlines [like he is], nor could we organize such large forces [as Hizbullah]. We were not able to properly support the three million Shi’ite Afghans [living in Iran as refugees], and it is very unfortunate that for 30 years we ignored Afghan Shi’ites who, despite their oppression, resisted the arrogance of the east [Russia] and the West [the U.S.] in Afghanistan. We saw them as mere laborers waiting [for work] at intersections or as criminals. This generation [of Afghans in Iran] stepped up and showed heroism, altruism, courage, and daring in Syria. They shone under the command of the Iranian forces…

“Under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem [Soleimani], the Afghans prevented Zaynabiyya, Damascus, and the airport from falling [to the Syrian rebels]… We must not think that we [Iranians] are fighting in Syria, [but rather that] the Afghans are being courageous there under our command…

“The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ refers to explicit aid from God. The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ produced two great events… [for Iran] in the world of Islam. First, during the [Iran-Iraq] War, we were tasked with creating unity among [ethnic] sects [in Iran] – Lors, Kurds, Baluchis, Persians, and Arabs – [albeit] in separate frameworks,  [which all fought] the Ba’ath Party [in Iraq]. We transformed all the [ethnic] sects into military divisions, and during the war never dared to say that some of the brothers were Sunnis and some were [Shi’ite] Afghans.

“The Fatemiyoun banner was raised, and thus the first seed of the liberation army of Shi’ites and Muslims was germinated in Syria. Today we have the privilege [of forming the Shi’ite Liberation Army] because back then, we created the unity among the [ethnic] sects; now, we have created international [Shi’ite] unity. The [Pakistani] Zaynabiyoun division comprises Pakistanis under the command of IRGC officers. The [Afghan] Fatemiyoun division has several brigades comprising Afghans, and even has some Sunni members. IRGC [officers] guide this division. These divisions include IRGC commanders and [Afghani] commanders, from squad commanders to staff officers. These divisions have a single uniform and a single banner. They come under a single umbrella organization and fight on a single battlefront. We also have the Hayderiyoun division, which comprises Iraqis. We also have a Hezbollah division, which is divided into two: one part is Hezbollah in Lebanon and the other is Hezbollah in Syria, which comprises the people of Damascus, Nubl, and Al-Zahraa.

“The [Shi’ite] Liberation Army was formed because, with God’s help, in 23 years there should be no such thing as Israel. These divisions are on the Israeli border. The Fatemiyoun have laid the groundwork for this fight.

“The second thing, that we are happy to see is spreading to everyone, is that our previous [patronizing] view of these [Afghan] brothers has changed…”

“Wherever There Is A Need For This Army, The People In That Region Will Be Organized And Supplied With Necessary Forces”

“The Shi’ite Liberation Army was established, and it is currently under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem Soleimani, who obeys the leader [Khomeini]. One of this army’s fronts is in Syria, another is in Iraq, and yet another is in Yemen. The forces in this army are not meant to be only Iranian; [instead], wherever there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized [to form it] and supplied with the necessary forces…

“We [Iranians] are not meant to come [to Syria] as forces operating [on the ground]. We want [Iranian] elements who know how to teach, organize, and manage to come to Syria. This way, the forces in that region can spring into action…

“Some of the commanders of the army [of the Syrian regime] fled abroad, and some of its bases were captured. The crushed Syrian army units have today regrouped with renewed strength. Therefore, there is no need for us [in Iran] to send an army there. We can stand alongside the Syrian army, organize Syrian forces, and prepare them for battle. [In the future] we can remove the enemy occupation of Syria, just as we did in [Iranian] Kurdistan, which took a year or two – but controlling foreign incursions into Syria is up to the Syrians themselves and we cannot prevent it.

“Regime change and changes of president can happen only when the enemy is no longer [in Syria]…  For example, we succeeded, within two years, to expel the enemy presence in Kurdistan in western [Iran], but it took us years to impose law and order there… Today, this region is considered one of the safest in Iran… even though 20 years ago, they were beheading IRGC personnel with pottery shards…”

The Iranian Army Felt It Had A Roll To Fulfill In Syria

“The Iranian army felt that it had to fulfill a role in this [Syrian] arena. According to my knowledge, the army told Qassem Soleimani that it wants to fulfill its duty in this matter [i.e. fighting in Syria]. Qassem Soleimani told this to the leader [Khomeini], and the leader gave his blessing… Some volunteers from various military units, who were mostly experts in aerial combat, were sent to Syria in mid-February 2016.

“These [Iranian army] forces were competent enough to operate independently, but we decided that they would operate as part of the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun [division]. God rewarded me by placing me in command of them as part of the Fatemiyoun [division]. I placed them in charge of the area and transferred means to them, and after a short period, the [Afghan] unit was placed under their command. Neither their rank nor their weapons in Iran were the same as they were [after they joined] the Fatemiyoun [in Syria]. But due to their presence in Syria and after a short time fighting alongside the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun brothers, they became one organization, wore the same uniform, and fought in the same trenches. They became fast friends.

“I also told [Iranian ground forces commander] Amir Pourdastan that I was proud to fight along with the brothers from the [Iranian] army on one of the global battlefront outside of Iran, just like during the sacred defense period [the Iran-Iraq War]. [Back then] there was no difference [between us and them] and they were like the Basij boys [of the IRGC].

“I spoke with the commander who was tasked with sending [Iranian soldiers to Syria] and he said: ‘One of my concerns is to curb the wave of volunteers who want to be sent [to Syria]. According to the needs of the [Iranian] General Staff, we only send the necessary amount of forces [to Syria]. Had I allowed it, we would have had several divisions of [Iranian] volunteers [in Syria].’

“The presence of these forces has been hugely beneficial [in the Syrian arena]. They also suffered martyrdoms and injuries, but this did not damage their morale or make them less determined. They were experienced, brave, and passionate…

“The [volunteers] coming from Iran to Syria are given a monthly stipend of $100.”

“We Do Not Wish To Produce An Atomic Bomb… [But Rather] Prove… That [We] Can Reach Higher Than France [And] England… In All Fields… Even On The Military Level”

“Until our power grows, the world of the arrogance [the U.S.] will never let us be. Some wonder why there is a need for tension between us and the Western world. I must say that if we tolerate this tension for a while, we will be a match for [the enemy] and then they will no longer dare fight us. We do not wish to produce an atomic bomb. We only want to prove that our people and country can reach higher than France, England, Austria, and Denmark in all fields – humanities, science, economy, technology, as well as human rights, and even on the military level.

“If we destroy the enemy that is currently mobilizing against us, there will be no room for any other country [to mobilize against us]. When we show our true might, they will no longer be able to do anything against us…”

 

End notes:

 

[1] In the first part of the interview Falaki refers to the problem of the Afghan refugees in Iran, who number some 3,000,000. The Iranian regime recruits young men from among these refugees to fight in Syria as part of the Afghan division. The fighters receive a monthly stipend and, if they fall in battle, their families’ social status is enhanced.

[2] Fars (Iran), August 18, 2016. It should be mentioned that the interview was deleted from the Mashregh website shortly after publication.

Will Ali Khomeini Have Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani Murdered In Venezuela This Week?

 

This week the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani gave a speech saying that the Iranian Government needed to “back it down a notch” concerning rhetoric toward Saudi Arabia and the U.S.. Within a couple of hours the person who really rules Iran as a true dictator “the Demon” Ali Khomeini who calls himself “The Supreme Leader” gave a very different speech concerning these issues. By no means is this the first time that the “moderate” President Mr. Hassan Rouhani differed on policy issues whether it be domestic or foreign. The Supreme Leader whom the people of Iran have not elected to that position constantly undermines the President of Iran whom the people did elect. Today Mr. Khomeini after the President spoke of a lighter touch concerning the Saudi’s and the U.S. did his typical tongue lashing of the President and spoke a very harsh line toward the U.S. and the Saudi’s. For those of you who do not know it, Iran is the biggest Shiite Islamic country in the Middle-East and Saudi Arabia is the largest Sunni Islamic country in the Middle-East and these two branches of Islam have hated each other since the Islamic faith started about 1,400 years ago. If the U.S. Security Agency’s are correct these two country’s are the biggest supporters of terrorism in the world. Both want total control of the Islamic faith, and of the whole world. The U.S. of course is hated by almost all the Sunni and the Shiite and is constantly refereed to as “the Great Satan.” Yet because the Saudi Government sells the U.S. many billions of dollars worth of oil each year and the U.S. sells the Saudi’s billions of dollars of military equipment the U.S. Government stays mostly quiet about terrorist acts committed by Saudi citizens. Also ever since “the Islamic Revolution” in 1979 Iran and the U.S. have been at odds with each other.

 

This weekend the OPEC country of Venezuela is having a conference, a get together if you will of Nations called “the Non Aligned Movement Country’s.” The Venezuelan President Mr. Maduro at this point in time is barely holding onto his power as President as most of his citizens want him ousted because he has done a horrible job with the Nations economy since he took office. The people of his Nation are out of work, have almost no utilities and they are starving. Crime in his country is totally out of control, even though his country is a OPEC country it appears that the revenues aren’t going to the people and the economy. Usually when this is happening history tells us that the leaders and their buddies are stealing the country blind. So, now there is this conference being held in Venezuela at the Island of Margarita. It is reported that things are so bad that even their, there is no running water and that employees are putting water jugs in the bathrooms of the major hotel so that the guests will be able to wash their hands. This hotel used to be considered a 5-star facility, now these honored guests can’t even flush their toilets or take a shower or bath.

 

My question is simple, with the living conditions on the ground there in Venezuela being what they are, how good is the security there really going to be? With the reality that ‘The Supreme Ruler’ hates the Iranian President because he is a man who dares to stand against the policies of Ali Khomeini  at times even publicly like yesterday, will Mr. Khomeini have the President assassinated while he is out of Iran there in Venezuela? Think about it for a moment, it would be an easy thing for Khomeini to have done. Having him murdered while he is in South America would be advantageous to him because he could and probably would blame the assassination on the U.S. Government. Certainly President Maduro of Venezuela whom also hates the U.S. and blames the Americans for almost all of his personal failings would have no problem blaming the Americans. To me this conference just seems like the ideal time and location for ‘the Supreme Leader’ to get rid of a President that he personally hates. I personally hope that this event does not happen but it is a well know fact that Mr. Khomeini is a mass murderer just like his daddy was and I do not believe he would lose any sleep over the death of the Iranian President. I hope I am wrong, I hope that no harm comes to President Rouhani, now, only time will tell.