Iranian Regime’s Concerns Persist Ahead of May Elections

Khamenei focused his speech on two main topics, covering both Iran’s economic crisis and the upcoming presidential elections in May. However, his words on the economy can be evaluated as a prelude to the disputes that will most definitely engulf Iranian politics. The comments Khamenei made on the economy were mainly focused on the failures and embarrassments brought about by the cabinet of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, including increasing unemployment and doubt over statistics published by the government.

Unlike Western democracies, there are no real “political parties” in Iran. Despite all the brouhaha in the media about “moderates” or “reformists” facing off against “hardliners,” they are all part of one system loyal to one leader, and are only considered members of different factions within this one system. Their only difference hovers over how to maintain their dictatorial regime in power.

Khamenei very specifically said the people should not elect a “tired” president and went as far as saying that the president must not be involved in any case of economic corruption.When discussing the elections, Khamenei very vividly referred to Rouhani’s cabinet as an inactive, low energy and a “non-revolutionary” entity. These very same terms were used the day before by various Friday prayer imams and representatives of his faction in the parliament.

Rouhani wasted no time in responding, taking advantage of a speech in the city of Sanandaj, in western Iran, on March 25. In response to Khamenei demanding that the government must present a report card of its accomplishments, Rouhani targeted the judiciary – known to be extremely loyal to Khamenei’s viewpoints – and called for this powerful institution to present its own report.

The question now is what the purpose of Khamenei’s remarks might have been. Does he truly intend to eliminate or disqualify Rouhani from the polls in any way?

Of course, Khamenei would prefer Rouhani to not be his regime’s next president. However, it appears he can no longer disqualify Rouhani through the ultraconservative Guardian Council, a 12-man body selected directly and indirectly by Khamenei, that is in charge of vetting all candidates for all so-called elections in Iran.

Although various members of Khamenei’s faction may seek such a fate for Rouhani, it appears that Khamenei himself knows the consequences of this outcome. A development of this type would significantly tear open the rifts inside the Iranian regime and provide adequate circumstances for Iranian society to explode in uprisings and protests similar to those of 2009.

To this end, Khamenei will go the distance to discredit and destroy Rouhani’s image and as a result decrease his popularity at the polls in a second and engineered round of elections. This would be the easiest of all scenarios for Khamenei, resulting in the elimination of Rouhani “by the books.”

And if forced to accept Rouhani for another term, the least Khamenei expects is to have a completely weakened Rouhani who won’t raise any demands and follows his orders. Khamenei especially needs such conditions after he lost one of his regime’s main pillars, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Despite their differences, Khamenei knows that the road ahead is far more difficult without him. To this end, he senses a need to continue his attacks against Rouhani to gain a full and complete control over all aspects of his regime.

The irony, however, lies in the fact that Khamenei faces many obstacles in his path to this objective.

First, the probability of a social outburst transforming into nationwide uprisings would be no less than a nightmare for him. If such a threat did not exist, rest assured Khamenei would have disqualified Rouhani through the Guardian Council and rid himself of this problem.

Second, Khamenei also has major reservations about the huge rifts existing within his own faction, vivid through the fact that his camp has not been able to select and support a single candidate for the elections. If Khamenei is unable to convince the hardliners to rally behind one candidate, he can assume the election lost beforehand.

Third, all said and done, who is the one figure Khamenei can select to have his camp rally behind? Does such a person even exist in Iran today who can bring an end to the long-lasting divisions among the so-called hardliners?

This all comes down to the major challenge before the entire Iranian regime: Can these sham elections be held without the population rising up, similar to 2009, in demand of fundamental change? We’ll find out soon enough.

Originally posted in The Diplomat

Appeasement of Iran Must End

appeasement

By Shahriar Kia

A tumultuous year lies ahead. With a new administration taking the helm in Washington, the French elections upcoming, then the sham “elections” in Iran, and unprecedented developments in the making in the Middle East and on the international stage.

2017 has begun with enormous concerns for the mullahs in Iran. With the death of former Iranian regime president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s establishment witnessed the fall of one of its two pillars.

To this end, Tehran’s religious dictatorship suffered a devastating blow and weakened in its entirety.

The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the most ruthless factions of his regime are trekking down the path of further contraction, advocating extremismsupporting terrorism, and pursuing their nuclear ambitions.

With the regime weakness bringing joy to the Iranian population, the mullahs are left terrified of a repeat of uprisings on the model of 2009. This is especially significant with crucial presidential “elections” coming in May.

The general public and even political prisoners are voicing their dissent like never before, especially thanks to social media. Families of regime victims are protesting, especially those whose loved ones perished amongst the 30,000 political prisoners massacred by the mullahs back in 1988. The people are demanding an end to ruthless executions and the regime’s existence.

The Iranian people, one year after the Iranian nuclear pact’s implementation, have gained nothing. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, however, has ironically benefited Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), allowing Iran to finance lethal ambitions in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

The world has come to realize that the mullahs, the IRGC, the Lebanese Hizb’allah and other Shiite militias have no such role of confronting extremism and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). In fact, their goal has been to maintain Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in power.

They have the main source of distributing terrorism and instability across this flashpoint region. In fact, their presence in Syria guarantees the mullahs’ continued rule back home.

Khamenei recently said if they hadn’t fought in Syria, they “had not been confronted [in Syria], we should have stood against them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan.”

In response to the latest Syrian ceasefire effort, Iran and its proxy elements are the sole parties seeking to sabotage the entire initiative. According to Syrian opposition leaders, Iran is the sole party seeking nothing but to maintain Assad in power at all costs.

No political solution is possible in the Levant as long as the IRGC and their Shiite militias are present in the country. Thus, if we seek peace in this land, the only serious path forward lies in expelling the mullahs from Syria. The main party in detriment from a ceasefire and eventual peace in Syria is none other than Tehran.

The Obama administration’s appeasement policy vis-à-vis Iran is the main reason behind the Syria tragedy and the mullahs’ dominance in this war. Iran counted on the West’s engagement approach to literally export its extremism under the banner of Islam.

The end of Obama’s tenure leaves little hope for the mullahs’ regime to act as they wish. This situation intensified ever since the occupation of Iraq back in 2003. Khamenei has been the main benefactor in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. But such days are over.

Considering the failed rapprochement approach, a policy change is needed to end the Middle East crisis. Actions must be taken in the face of the IRGC’s terrorism and its destructive role in the region. Otherwise neither the Middle East nor the world, for that matter, will ever experience true peace and tranquility.

We cannot ally with one form of extremism to root out another. Extremism under the name of Islam, be it Sunni or Shiite, is no different in viciousness and none represent Islam. In fact, they are better described as forms of religious fascism.

Therefore, no government can promote an alliance with Tehran under the pretext of pursuing a security policy. Furthermore, we cannot neglect our principles for the mere sake of short-term economic gains and turn our backs on human rights and women’s rights violations in Iran.

Today’s Iran has an alternative with a democratic agenda based on respecting religious freedoms, universal suffrage, separation of church and state, and gender equality. The voice of this alternative should be heard, as proposed by nearly two dozen senior top U.S. officials in a hand-delivered letter to President Donald Trump.

This alternative is none other than the National Council of Resistance of Iran under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, who years ago presented her vision for a future Iran in a 10-point-plan.

The solution presented by the Iranian opposition can render a new era for the people of Iran, nations across the Middle East and beyond. We only need to remain loyal to our democratic values and principles.

Originally published in American Thinker

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst and member of Iranian opposition (PMOI/MEK). He graduated from North Texas University. @shahriarkia