With the sham parliamentary elections nearing in Iran, the battle for hegemony between the regime’s two factions, led by supreme leader Ali Khamenei and Expediency Council chair Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has heated up. The very significant signs are seen in the escalation of tension between these two figures and threats of resorting to violent measures. These include Khamenei dispatching his gangs of club-wielders to disrupt gatherings held by the rival faction, and Rafsanjani’s own remarks of the possibility of being eliminated by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
The question is how should Rafsanjani’s remarks, posted on his official website, be interpreted? “When chaos rules over society, like in Egypt the military allows itself to hijack a nation’s revolution, and then come to power,” he mentioned.
There is no doubt that through such remarks Rafsanjani is warning about being eliminated by the IRGC. It appears his warnings are serious and not ordinary propaganda because reports in recent days and weeks indicate the arrest of elements of the Rafsanjani and Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani faction, especially carried out by the IRGC intelligence branch. Paramilitary Bassiji units and club-wielders loyal to Khamenei and led by known figures, such as Naghavi Hosseini, spokesman of the regime’s security commission in the so-called parliament, and escalating media attacks against Rouhani, Rafsanjani and other individuals associated to their faction… all indicate a leap taken by Khamenei’s faction to eliminate their rivals.
Naturally, Khamenei prefers to untie this knot with his fingers, and not his teeth, meaning he will attempt to use these methods of sporadic arrests and cementing a climate of fear amongst his rivals. However, if such actions bear no results and his rivals remained firm on their position, then it is quite possible to see more decisive and widespread measures being executed. As it appears so far neither Rafsanjani nor Rouhani have any intentions of backing down. The recent remarks made by Rafsanjani and Rouhani’s very sharp remarks aimed at his rivals in a recent media exhibition are signs of this very trend.
In such a case what will Khamenei do? Will he use the IRGC and Bassij, being his main entities of terror and inflicting his power?
The truth is that Khamenei is facing a dangerous fork in the road. If he takes action to eliminate his opponents, he has the experience of the 2009 uprisings and how the Iranian people will take advantage of rifts within his regime, leading to uprisings erupting like active volcanoes. Such consequences will push the regime to the very edge of being overthrown, and it appears since Rafsanjani has in his recent speech used the words “cliff”, he sought to remind and warn all of this very matter.
“Those who believe the vote of the people is merely décor, such a mentality will lead the country to the edge of the cliff,” Rafsanjani said.
The sensitivity of the status quo is very much similar to that of 2009. Back then Mousavi, a sideline figure inside the regime, was set aside. This time around, however, the elimination of the regime’s president is on the table. He controls the executive branch. We are also talking about eliminating Rafsanjani, with all his record and roots in this regime. For example, a brain surgery is on the table this time around, and the threat is known to all.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that to this day Khamenei has not seen it necessary to respond or deny anything regarding Rafsanjani’s warnings. In fact he has remained silent, seeking to deliberately confirm the possibility raised by Rafsanjani.
However, if Khamenei doesn’t seek or lacks the will of taking such a risk and eliminating his main rivals, the scene of 2013 will be repeated when Khamenei – in fear of nationwide uprisings – gave in to Rouhani coming to power. However, in such a case we will not see a return to the conditions of 2013. Today, Rouhani is not the ‘Hassan Rouhani’ of 2013. In fact, it is Rouhani + Rafsanjani + parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and … This team, coming out victorious in such conditions, will most definitely take the majority of the regime, including the so-called parliament and Assembly of Experts – an oversight entity over the supreme leader’s actions with the power to set aside and elect a new leader, out of Khamenei’s grasps. As a result, they will pursue the policy of fully implementing the nuclear deal and coming to terms with the West’s demands. This means pulling the rug from under Khamenei’s feet and installing Rafsanjani in power.
Considering the consequences of such a result, none of the regime’s two factions will come out as ultimate victors. In fact, the regime in its entirety will come out extremely weakened, and it will be the Iranian people and their organized resistance who will rise to the occasion.