Ayatollah Khomeini’s Radical Heirs in Iran

2010/02/21

Published in German daily “Die Welt” on 21 February 2010
Source (German): http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article6493972/Ayatollah-Khomeinis-radikale-Erben-in-Iran.html#reqRSS
English translation kindly provided by Josh Manning, edited by germantoenglish

by Dietrich Alexander

What is going on in Iran? Concerning information about the possibility of obtaining nuclear weapons, the UN stated it is “conclusive and believable in itself”. There are indications that the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is no longer in charge of the situation and that the true power in Iran has been usurped by the Revolutionary Guards.

The Revolutionary Guards celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Revolution


The International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) is intensifying its rhetoric. Modified in nuances, yet alarming for all insiders, the UN agency’s newest report has changed to a different tone. The report carries the handwriting of the new General Director of the agency, Yukiya Amano. Amano, from Japan, had replaced the Egyptian El-Baradei in December and wrote in his analysis of “conclusive and believable” information connecting Iranian activities with the possibility that Iran is trying to obtain nuclear weapons. “Altogether, this concern gives rise to the possible existence of both earlier and current secret activities, which point to the development of an explosive charge that would be used with a nuclear rocket”

After the politics of appeasement that the agency pursued in recent years, these words struck a tone of change to the ears of the ruling powers in Tehran. Hastily, Supreme Religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei felt compelled to explain that the accusations of the West were “without substance and that our religious beliefs forbid us from using such weapons”. Iran does not rely on nuclear weapons, nor aspire for them, said Khamenei.

That might be the honest conviction of the heir to the late Ayatollah Khomeini, but the question is whether Khamenei is actually still the head of the house. The Iranian religious state is split in their relation to Khamenei, whose religious reputation ranks below that of the likes of Hojatoleslam Rafsanjani and Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sane’i. This has penetrated into political, economic, and social layers, not to mention the Revolutionary Guard itself.

The paramilitary organization is the shield of the regime and has a troop strength of around 125,000 men. Established by Rouhollah Khomeini on May 5, 1970, the guards developed into an important participant in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). No fewer than 13 of the 21 ministers in the cabinet of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are former commanders of the Revolutionary Guard. More than a 100 of the 290 members of parliament are also former members, so are almost all of the 30 provincial governors. Ahmadinejad himself came out of the organization which was declared a terrorist group by the Bush Administration on October 25, 2007. Since his term started in 2005, the president has placed into key positions “his” people who were chosen based on loyalty rather than quality.

Also known as the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guards are ideologically compatible with the radical religious holding power in Iran, and are in theory supposed to answer only to Khamenei. However, they hold a considerable amount of power over the Supreme Leader. As a dominant economic power, they are subject to tax-free status as well as allowed forbidden goods such as alcohol without custom duties. All large-scale national projects such as the building of oil plants, pipelines, and the development of the Tehran subway are assigned to the Pasdaran. They control the seaports and airports, giving them the power to declare what goods enter the country. They command tanks, airplanes, helicopters, and armed speedboats.

Also under their arm are the volunteer forces known as the Basij, who, with a force of 100,000 men, suppressed the mass opposition protests following the disputed election of Ahmadinejad. With this economic and political structure, the Pasdaran form a state within a state free of all clerical rule. Pasdaran Commander General Mohammed Ali Jafari uses the vague goal of defending the revolution as his pretense for the organization’s activities.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Qatar made various rather polemic statements, although her view that Iran is on its way towards a military dictatorship is not completely unjustified Ali Shirazi, born in Tehran in 1940 and fleeing Iran after the fall of Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979, lives today in Germany as a writer. He told WELT ONLINE: “Hillary Clinton is correct.” The reform movement by Mir Hussein Mousavi has no chance against this powerful apparatus. And Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is being tolerated as a revolutionary leader, as he is not an obstacle to the circles of the real rulers – the Revolutionary Guards.

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