Yes, It Can – If the Revolutionary Guards Take over
It may be hard to believe but Iran’s theocratic rulers are relatively rational and controlled compared with the wild forces boiling up in their midst.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian sources report that the ultra-radical Revolutionary Guards, the Pasdaran, have become restive under a regime they perceive as tame and are building up to seize power and establish a religious dictatorship.
The last straw for the RG commanders and their champion, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be a slowdown in the national nuclear program short of a weapons option. In the view of our Iranian sources, even if the country plunged deeper into religious fanaticism, the hard-line Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei would most likely stay in place as supreme ruler for the time being.
One of the extremist factions actively planning a takeover is the Ossul-Gerayan (the fundamentalists). Its first target is the Council of Experts, whose 85 members are up for election in November.
Its second wayside goal is control of the national economy.
The main function of the Council of Experts is the appointment or dismissal of the supreme ruler, who holds most powers of state. Ayatollah Khamenei appears to be in good health and shows no inclination to step aside. However, stubborn rumors (possibly induced) insist he is suffering from all sorts of illnesses and is not expected to hold the reins of office for more than four years.
There are two rivals for the succession to this all-powerful slot: His old friend Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a former president, countered by the spiritual mentor of the president, Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi.
In recent years, Rafsanjani, the closest to a Western-style diplomat in the Iranian leadership, has fared badly in elections. Parliamentary elections three years ago left him without any of the three Tehran seats in the Majlis; last year he was humiliatingly knocked out in his rerun for the presidency by the unknown Ahmadinejad. All the same, Rafsanjani remains a powerful national figure. He owes his position at the heart of decision-making in the capital largely to his ambivalent relations with the supreme ruler, who engineered his election defeat last year but keeps him close at his side.
Ahmadinejad’s mentor prepares to seize a key ruling body
Mesbah-Yazdi, known for his unbridled zeal on matters religious and nuclear, has his eye on the chair of the Council of Experts. He aspires to stuff its seats with non-clerical Revolutionary Guardsmen in place of its solid clerical membership.
With less than two months to go to the vote, the regime has not yet defined the selection criteria for candidates. Pressure is coming from the high ranks of the Pasdaran to open the Council to lay members.
The guiding principles of the revolutionary Islamic republic leave no room for a military coup because its legitimacy is grounded in the will of the people. Iran is not Thailand, where an overt putsch is possible. What is happening therefore is a creeping military takeover by the Revolutionary Guards heads, who for several months have been making inroads on the national leadership. They are spearheaded by President Ahmedinejad and his fiery policies which have driven forward their conspiracy to seize control of the country as well as all levels of its financial sector and gradually scoop up all the levers of government.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources reveal that Ahmadinejad has his finger in the pie having set up in his own office a secret campaign headquarters on behalf of his mentor, his disciples and his RG pals.
While denying the existence of this staff, the president is using it to blacken Rafsanjani’s name and destroy his chances of election as Council of Experts chairman. Recently, he orchestratedis a long article in the publication put out by the “Association of Lecturers at the High Seminaries of Religious Studies of Qom,” which contained poisonous allegations of corruption by Rafsanjani. Hints of more revelations to come against him and his family, especially his sons who manage the family business, were thrown out and would be published if he ran for office.
Serious charges leveled against Rafsanjani by the Internet site Ansarnews.com caused a sensation in Iran.
This smear campaign has given Rafsanjani pause before declaring his candidacy.
Last week, he fought back by warning his opponents that if they brazenly seized state organs they would lose the support of the people and undermine the regime.
But the Pasdaran is in no mood to heed warnings. They are in full cry after high office.
Khamenei himself is watching the tussle closely. He is holding back from taking sides, partly because he cannot throw off his growing dependence on the radical clerics and the RG hotheads.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian experts are placing odds on a victory for the faction backed by Ahmadinejad in the elections for the Council of Experts. This will elevate the Revolutionary Guards to a higher rung on the ladder of government.
The Revolutionary Guards’ insatiable appetite for money and power
The immediate outcome will be extreme: bigger budgets will be allocated for programs developing nuclear and other weapons of mass destructions; domestic and foreign policies will be further radicalized; Iran will deepen its involvement in armed conflicts in the Middle East, such as the Hizballah-Israeli war in Lebanon.
Strange though it may seem, the incumbent regime rulers are bound by religious and moral scruples. The president and his ambitious RG allies, in contrast, recognize no religious, moral or human restraints to attaining their ends. The Pasdaran has succeeded in seizing control of most parts of the Iranian economy and are abusing their power.
For instance, they have built 30 illegal ports and anchorages on the Persian Gulf coast for surreptitiously unloading and loading goods going in and out of the country.
The PG claim they are used for their contacts with al Qaeda, to dispatch arms to Hizballah in Lebanon and to the Palestinian Jihad Islami. But the authorities are not permitted to set foot in these illegal harbors or supervise the types of goods going out or coming in
Companies set up by the Pasdaran furthermore bid openly for every the government tenders for development projects and win them all.
No outside firm stands a chance against them. The same applies to international companies. Last year, when a Turkish company won a public tender for the management of the Khomeinei airfield, Revolutionary Guards tanks suddenly swarmed over the runways and threatened to block takeoffs and landings unless the Turkish contract was cancelled. Today the airfield is managed by the Pasdaran, which use their freedom to transfer overseas the vast earnings from their nefarious pursuits and send war materiel to the terrorist organizations they sponsor in the region and around the world.
The deeper the RG grip on the Iranian economy and government, the greater its commanders’ appetite for more.
Today, their hands are on the levers of nearly half of the country’s economic projects. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iran experts comment that the RG’s business interests make it necessary for them to exacerbate political frictions within the regime and confront the outside world for the sake of procuring every larger slices of the national budget.
The continuing development of the nuclear weapons program and the vast investments entailed assure the RG that its main source of lucrative earnings is safe.
Keeping that program moving forward is therefore a prime interest for the insatiable Pasdaran.