Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trouble in the Iranian Muslim paradise: Power struggle threatens nuke deal - Rick Moran

by Rick Moran

“With so many people jockeying for position, the hardliners will be tempted to prove their revolutionary credentials by vetoing any deal with the U.S.,” explained a senior Western diplomat.

"Confusion to the enemy" is a toast with its origins in the Bible (Exodus 23:27). In the case of what's happening behind the curtain in Iran, it is something to be devoutly wished for.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dying. Actually, he's been dying for years if you pay attention to the scuttlebut being whispered in Tehran. But this time, the 75 year old fanatic is said to be suffering from terminal prostrate cancer and has only months to live.

In the cutthroat politics of the upper echelons of the Iranian government, this has set off a power struggle among leading ayatollahs to succeed him. It should be noted that whenever the press discusses Iranian politics, they pretend that there are "hardliners" and "moderates" - just like in western politics. The trouble is, they never bother to say what the differences are between the two. Do moderates still want to destroy Israel and the US? They wouldn't have risen to the top unless they were wholly committed to such an enterprise. Do they deny the Holocaust? Yes. 

The only real difference is that the moderates speak like mostly normal human beings while the hardliners rant and rave like paranoid loons. Hence, current President Rouhani, who can string a couple of coherent sentences together without threatening the destruction of Israel or the US, is considered "moderate" while former President Ahmadinejad was a loony hardliner because the threatened to "wipe Israel off the map."

According to this article in the Telegraph, the hardliners hold the upper hand in the Assembly of Experts - the body that will choose the next Supreme Leader. And this bodes well for opponents of the nuclear deal now being negotiated because in the cuckoo land of Iranian politics, anyone who even talks to the US is suspect, which make a deal nearly impossible - even if negotiations prove successful.
Recent reports in the Iranian media have suggested that his condition is terminal, and that the man who had dominated Iranian politics since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution’s founding father, in 1989 only has months to live.
In March Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi, 84, a hardline ally of Mr Khamenei, was elected head of the Assembly of Experts, the religious body responsible for choosing the country’s new Supreme Leader when the position falls vacant.
Western diplomats say that one of Mr Khamenei’s protégés, Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judicial system and a noted hardliner, is positioning himself to be appointed the new Supreme Leader when the Assembly of Experts comes to make its decision.
Mr Larijani, 54, is the brother of Ali Larijani, Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator who is now chairman of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament.
He is now reported to be conducting a purge against more moderate ayatollahs who might put their names forward to become the country’s new Supreme Leader.
For example, Mr Larijani has recently launched a judicial inquiry into allegations of corruption made against the moderate ayatollah, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, who is a leading ally of Iran’s former moderate president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
By launching the inquiry, diplomats believe Mr Larijani has effectively ended Mr Shahroudi’s chances of standing for election.
The renewed bout of political in-fighting in Tehran is causing particular concern for Western diplomats involved in negotiations to resolve the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear programme.
In the past attempts to achieve a breakthrough in the long-running dispute have failed because Mr Khamenei and other hardliners in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have refused to accept any deal negotiated with the U.S..
Now Western negotiators fear the current round of negotiations could suffer a similar fate as a result of the political in-fighting taking place in Tehran.
“With so many people jockeying for position, the hardliners will be tempted to prove their revolutionary credentials by vetoing any deal with the U.S.,” explained a senior Western diplomat.
If there were truly "moderate" candidates, we would hear conciliatory language and see gestures of friendship from them. Instead - same old same old. At that height of Iranian politics, you make your bones by trying to top everyone else in expressing your hatred for Israel and the US. Otherwise, you don't stand a chance.

Not very "moderate" after all.

Rick Moran


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