Two separate encounters in Tehran Monday, July 6, portend a fateful showdown between Iran's Islamic regime and the protest movement, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources disclose.
The first was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's war council with his allies: Revolutionary Guards commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the radical ayatollahs Mesbah Yazdi and Nouri Hamedan and Chief of the Revolutionary Guards political bureau, Ayatollah Yadollah Javani.
The second brought the three protest movement's leaders, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and ex-president Mohammad Khatami, together.
Each group explored options for wiping out its rival. Both their decisions promised an upsurge of violence.
But real power still rests with Group No. 1 and its members decided to employ it to the full: After Ahmadinejad is sworn in for his second term as president, in about three weeks, they plan to launch a massive purge of his opponents, starting with the arrest of the three opposition leaders and their indictment on charges of treasonable collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies. They refer to the British MI-6 secret service, the American CIA and the Israeli Mossad spy agency.
Addressing the first meeting, the Revolutionary Guards' politburo head Yadollah Javani said: There are no neutral people left in Iran only two opposing camps: Those who are loyal to the revolution, and those who seek to bring it down from within.”
Javani put his position more starkly the next day, Tuesday, July 6, when he said at a different meeting: “Speaking for the Revolutionary Guards, we have not yet managed to gouge out the eyes of the schemers. Their eyes must be plucked in advance.”
The Revolutionary Guards' coup brings Khamenei Jr into play
Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari, whose forces will be responsible for the arrests and the conduct of repressive measures to subdue the opposition movement, frankly admitted for the first time that the central Islamic regime was saved and still survives thanks to his guns. In the outburst of popular unrest in the wake of the June 12 presidential election, the Revolutionary Guards appropriated control of national security. He called his operation to quell the spiraling unrest “the revival of the Revolution” but DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources report it came closer to exploiting the turmoil for a coup d'etat.
This force's strong-armed seizure of control coupled with the stern and threatening speech delivered by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that same day, drove the three opposition leaders to cast about for ways to escape the approaching trap of arrest and punishment.
Khamenei declared he would brook no more dissent against the regime, signaling he had abandoned his position of neutrality between the camps and would no longer stand in the way of Ahmadinejad's vendetta against them.
The president knows as well as anyone that by pursuing extreme steps, he risks plunging the country into the flames of civil violence, but he is not deterred. Just the opposite, the popular unrest will give him an excuse to suspend the state's Shiite constitution and impose martial law. He will validate this step by citing the 1985 ruling handed down by the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, who allowed the suspension of important Islamic commandments such as fasting and the pilgrimage to Mecca for the sake of saving the Islamic republic from collapse.
Khamenei, now spiritual leader, was president at the time of the ruling.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources, the president has won a powerful backer, the spiritual leader's eldest son.
Mojtaba Khamenei, 46, dreams of succeeding his father, a dream shared by his parent. Under the laws of Shiite Islam, a spiritual leader is not allowed to name his successor. Khomeini followed this injunction, as did the Prophet Mohammad. But the Khameneis are drawing lessons from the number of contemporary Asian and Arab rulers who are handing the reins of government down to their sons.
Ahmadinejad pledges to endorse Khamenei's son
Our sources refute the rumors that the $1.6 billion in banked assets seized by the British government belong to Mojtaba. They are in fact the property of the Iranian government and its financial institutions.
Khamenei's son is not thought to be quite that wealthy. He has certainly cached a few hundred millions in foreign banks – a mere bagatelle for Iran's affluent – but not in Britain.
According to our Iranian sources, the spiritual leader a year ago demand a written pledge from the president that he would vigorously endorse Mojtaba as his successor should Khamenei become incapacitated.
On the face of it, this pledge was absurd since, according to Iran's constitution, the supreme leader is chosen from among the most outstanding religious scholars, whereas Mojtaba lacks even the rudimentary knowledge required for the ordination of a Shiite cleric.
But Khamenei knew what he was doing.
The main obstacle to this plan is the powerful ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has quietly backed the opposition movement. He has been waiting for years for Khamenei to disappear so that he can take over the highest appointment in the Islamic republic, that of unelected supreme leader. One of his titles is Chairman of the Council of Experts, which chooses the holder of this title and is technically empowered to remove him.
However, as matters stand today, he would not gain a majority of Experts to sack the supreme leader – even on the grounds that he has abandoned the position of neutrality between rival political factions, as required under his remit, and thrown all his support behind Ahmadinejad.
Rafsanjani himself cannot be summarily removed either. But the president, his sworn enemy, thinks he has found a way to accomplish this design by having him arrested and charged with massive financial corruption, and so removing the biggest obstacle to Mojtaba's succession.
The Revolutionary Guards are an enthusiastic party to this conspiracy.
Ahmadinejad versus Rafsanjani. The pot calling the kettle black
The Guards' ambition is to seize power by dislodging the ayatollah-led regime. The passing of the supreme leadership to a lay figure like Mojtaba would fit in with their plan perfectly by pushing the clerics to the fringes and disempowering them in the conduct of affairs of state.
The opposition leaders are proposing to turn the same corruption sword hanging over Rafsanjani's head against its wielder, president Ahmamadinejad.
Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami have begun putting together a dossier against the president with the help of Rafsanjani's attorneys and agents in government and public offices. They have found documentation attesting to the large-scale embezzlement of public funds by Ahmadinejad in his past and present capacities.
According to one piece of evidence, when he was governor of Ardebil province (in North-Western Iran), he let his cronies run projects in conjunction with foreign oil companies, which netted hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits which he and his friends pocketed.
Among those friends was Sadegh Mahsouli Ali Saeelou, whom he later appointed Minister of the Interior and entrusted with organizing the rigged June 12 presidential election. Mashouli is today one of the richest men in Iran. Still, Ahmadinejad is accused of approving a low-interest loan of $40 million for his friend.
The subject of kickbacks is still open.
Another item in the dossier is the mysterious disappearance of 300 billion Tuman (300 million dollars) from the accounts of the City of Tehran of which Ahmadinejad was mayor until he became president. The suspicion against him is not new, but the president has never offered a convincing explanation to account for the missing sum.
That is not the whole of the case the opposition is building up against the president and they have only just started digging.
For now, it is hard to predict which way Iran's life-or-death contest will go. Ahmadinejad is determined to destroy his enemies and use his purge as a springboard for a political coup. His opponents know they will go down unless they fight for their lives.