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Thu Sep 26, 2013, 07:46 PM

Tensions in Tehran: Iran’s Mullahs vs. the Revolutionary Guards

In its first days under the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic of Iran was a competitive authoritarian state that, despite challenges of war, armed opposition, and difficult economic times, enjoyed a significant measure of stability. The Revolutionary Guards and paramilitary Basij force were charged with controlling the disenfranchised masses. But Khomeini understood the importance of allowing at least two factions of the political elite to compete for power and the control of policy. The leftist clergy, organized as the Association of Militant Clerics (Majmae Rohaniyoone Mobarez), and their allies advocated for a state-run economy and trade, while the rightist clergy, organized as the Society of Militant Clerics (Jamae Rohanyete Mobarez), and their financially powerful merchants (Bazaris), campaigned for privatization and free-market economy. Both groups developed extensive, mafia-like networks and both sought to establish a crony-run economy that benefited allies and members of their clan.

As both factions competed for political power by vehemently denouncing each other, Khomeini constantly shifted the weight of his support from one group to the other, making sure that neither gained absolute control. The ayatollah’s charisma, the near universal acceptance of the legitimacy of his 1979 revolution, and patriotism engendered particularly by the ten-year Iran-Iraq war contributed to the regime’s survival, but the most underestimated and overlooked factor was Khomeini’s successful management of competition between the revolution’s elites and his careful distribution of power between the two main factions.

Until Khomeini’s death, both factions coexisted and competed in every election, while opposition—armed or peaceful—was violently suppressed. Khomeini’s widespread popularity allowed him to resist each faction’s attempt at eliminating the other. His death in 1989 changed the domestic balance of power. His passing and a decade of war with Iraq made the regime increasingly reliant upon the Revolutionary Guards and Basij paramilitary force for its survival.

It was Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, then the powerful speaker of Parliament who had built himself a successful financial empire during the Iraq war, who took charge of the succession crisis. He used all of his political capital to install Ali Khamenei as the new leader and took over the presidency himself. During the succession period, Rafsanjani recognized the two main threats to his power to be the leftist clergy and the Revolutionary Guards.

more at:

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/tensions-tehran-iran%E2%80%99s-mullahs-vs-revolutionary-guards

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Reply Tensions in Tehran: Iran’s Mullahs vs. the Revolutionary Guards (Original post)
Mosby Sep 2013 OP
MADem Sep 2013 #1

Response to Mosby (Original post)

Thu Sep 26, 2013, 10:49 PM

1. Politics is like a MAZE over there.....

In seeking to contain the power struggle, Khamenei used Rafsanjani, the powerful figure the Guards had worked for so many years to defeat, as a sacrificial offering. He would allow the Guards to disqualify Rafsanjani from running, and in return the Guards consented to allowing Hassan Rouhani, a conservative, loyal, and “moderate” cleric, to run instead. The popular vote would once again be allowed to play the role of arbitrator in this competition between factions of the elite, a tradition whose abandonment in 2009 had created one of the largest crises in the history of the Islamic Republic. Knowing that he himself was unpopular as a result of his unqualified support for the Guards in 2009 and viewed by many as the face of the dictatorship, Khamenei took great care not to appear as a supporter of Rouhani.

....Although Rouhani enjoys the support of Khamenei and part of the intelligence community (due to his longtime membership in the Supreme National Security Council), it is not clear that he will prevail in the coming power struggle. The next few key battles with the Guards over Cabinet selection will be revealing. If Rouhani could take away from the Guards the ministries of justice, intelligence, interior, and economy and appoint people who might actually succeed in cleansing these agencies of the IRGC influence, then he has a realistic chance of success in bringing the clergy back to power. But the history of authoritarian regimes does not offer much cause for optimism. Once they attain power, armed forces usually do not leave their position of power and privilege unless confronted with a sweeping revolution or a humiliating defeat in a war. The armed and dangerous genie, fattened by the power and privilege it has enjoyed in the domestic realm, does not easily return to the bottle.
http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/tensions-tehran-iran%E2%80%99s-mullahs-vs-revolutionary-guards


I don't think there are many bazaris who, if allowed to converse anonymously and without reprisals, would argue with the notion that they had MORE clout under Shah--and they supported Khomeini precisely because they didn't feel their bloc had enough influence.

And as for Rouhani, the fact that he's had a couple of good days in NYC, and there's a hope in hell of sanctions being lifted, will go a long way towards insulating him. That said, he's got to watch his back. He may want to get a food taster, too...

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