As polling day approached for Iran's 10th presidential election Friday, June 12, there was a sense of impending violence in the air, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iran sources report. In Tehran, cars were set on fire and scuffles broke the run-up to the vote between young men and women draped in the green colors of Mir Hossein Moussavi, head of the reformist camp, and supporters of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad waving yellow flags.
But this was a relatively minor incident.
From conversations with prominent government figures, our sources have gathered that Ahmedinejad's backers in the Revolutionary Guards and radical clergy are determined to crown their man winner in the first round of the vote by all possible means, including force. A minor scuffle is the least of their worries.
On the other side, non-candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani, a power in the land – although defeated by Ahmedinejad in his second run for the presidency in 2005 – is using his pull as Chairman of the Council of Experts (which elects Iran's Supreme Ruler) and Chairman of the Expediency Council, to achieve at all costs a counter-coup to prevent the incumbent's re-election.
Tuesday, June 9, three days before the vote, Rafsanjani sent a top-secret memo by hand to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, demanding his immediate intervention for curbing the unbridled behavior of Ahmedinejad and his followers and the threat it poses of pitched street battles between rival factions.
The president's rough rhetoric is legendary. Yet Wednesday, he accused Mir Moussavi, his main rival, of “smear tactics used by Adolf Hitler” and further provoked violent responses with charges of heinous financial corruption, stealing national treasure and mega-profits from illicit business transactions which he hurled at the Rafsanjani clan in televised debates.
Ahmanidejad flouts Khamenei's call to order
Whispers of Rafsanji's dodgy business practices have been current for years, spread by word of mouth, but never before had these aspersions been broadcast live by a national figure to a national audience of many millions.
In his secret message to Khamenei, the targeted man said he was concerned for the safety of his family – but even more that this sort of inflammatory language could stir up street violence and trigger simultaneous uprisings capable of shaking the Islamic regime to its foundations.
He urged Khamenei to intervene immediately and put a stop to it lest the void be filled by groups using the wild atmosphere generated by ferocious oratory for surprise steps to seize power.
When Rafsanjani lost is bid for the presidency four years ago, he said he would file his complaint with “God in heaven” and chose to keep silent “for now.”
Figures close to Rafsanjani told DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian sources that on June 4, he took advantage of both their attendance at national events marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic revolution, for a short conversation to demand that Ahmadinejad retract his charges.
The president not only refused by repeated his accusation in the next TV debates.
Four days later, Monday, June 8, the supreme ruler had Ahmadinejad on the carpet for “clarifications.” The president replied that his old foe had lined up behind the candidacies of all three presidential challengers and it was his natural right “to expose the true face of this snake, Rafsanjani.”
Seeing the supreme ruler had cut no ice, Rafsanjani broke with standing Islamic Republican custom and took his complaint directly to the media
All three contenders fear Ahmadinejad will rig the vote
In a letter published in several newspapers, he said he had personally told the president to take back his remarks, which were “irresponsible and untruthful.” He then turned to Ayatollah Khamenei to resolve the dispute, without revealing that he had already done so: “I ask your eminence, given your position, responsibility and personality, to solve this problem and act in any way you deem right to take effective action and eliminate this mutiny.”
While the extremist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 52, former mayor of Tehran and member of the Revolutionary Guards, is the frontrunner in the Islamic Republic's 10th presidential election, he is closely followed by Mir Hossein Moussavi, 67, prime minister in the Iran-Iraq war of the 80s. Like Moussavi, the mid-rank cleric Mehdi Karroubi, 72, former speaker of parliament, is acclaimed a reformist, whereas Mohsen Rezai, 55, former Revolutionary Guards commander, has similar views to the president.
What all three have in common is their suspicion that Ahmadinejad and his following have hatched a massive vote fraud conspiracy to guarantee his re-election in the first round of voting.
To win the presidency, a candidate must receive more than 50 per cent of the total vote. Otherwise, the contest goes to a run-off vote. Of Iran's estimated 46 million eligible voters, 75 percent are under 30, half women.
The three challengers have demanded a separate oversight committee to monitor voting, but were flatly rejected by the Ministry of Interior.
According to our sources, Interior minister Sadeqh Mahsooli is accused of setting up mirror ballot boxes at voting stations. They are pre-stuffed with mostly Ahmedinejad ballots ready to switch with the real ballots in precincts where opposition support is preponderant.
The authorities appear to have put in place a number of draconian measures to nullify an opposition victory.
The president must not be allowed to fall
Chairman of the Constitutional Guardians Council, Shovra-ye Negahban, said he would not think twice before cancelling election results in voting stations where irregularities are suspected. By this means, Ahmadinejad's two friends are empowered to guarantee his success.
The ministry and council have also announced that voters will not be asked to present photo IDs. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iran sources report that Tehran has had more than a million fake ID's run off in Qatar and handed round to the hundreds of thousands of loyal “bassij” (voluntary militia) members. This enables them to travel from one polling station to another and vote each time with a different fake ID without being challenged.
To cover up the full scale of fraudulent voting, the Iranian government has created a huge number of “mobile voting stations.” In former elections, bogus voting could be uncovered by comparing the number of registered voters in a precinct with the ballots cast. Mobile ballot boxes eliminate the need for a voter to give his address and therefore cancels out this form of supervision.
Ahmadinejad tried and failed to persuade the Iranian parliament to lower the age of majority to 15, believing this would promote his prospects, but his Revolutionary Guard and clerical backers promised they will find other ways to expand the vote in his favor in the first round.
Should they fail, they mean to turn their big guns on stopping his closest rival Mir Moussavi coming out ahead in the run-off.
What happens if all these measures fail and after Friday midnight, June 13, the near-final results presage the incumbent president's defeat? Will rioting erupt between the rival camps?
One of Ahmadinejad's senior campaign advisers made the position abundantly clear Wednesday, two days before the vote. He said the Revolutionary Guards would not let the president fall because he “has not yet completed his mission.”
That mission consists of restoring Iran to its fundamental revolutionary Islamic state, bringing the national nuclear and missile programs to completion in the face of international resistance and preparing the country for a military showdown with Israel.