Elite Maneuverings in Iran Intensify

With hardliners blaming everything on foreigners (reminiscent of Americans after 9/11 expressing innocent outrage about “terrorism out of the blue” as though American foreign policy had had nothing to do with it), the regime has nevertheless clearly opened negotiations with the opposition. The maneuverings at the top are also widening, now including Majlis and former president Khatami.

The police have ominously announced the arrest of “armed imposters” posing as Basij members in order to create trouble. If faked, the charges would symbolize the willingness of Ahmadinejad to go to any lengths to remain in office. If true, the charges would suggest that the situation is far more serious than apparent so far, raising the extremely serious possibility that Western agents are in fact trying to destabilize the country. Either way, this intensifies the crisis.

In a further sign of hardline intransigence, Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei issued a blatantly biased and anti-democratic prejudgement yesterday, when he stated: “I announce that no organized rigging which could affect the result of the election has taken place.”

In contrast and seemingly ignoring the Intel chief, the Guardian Council has ordered random public recounts. According to the Guardian Council’s spokesman, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei:

The order has been made following the hesitation of representatives of [the defeated presidential candidate] Mir-Hossein Mousavi and an ineffective joint meeting between certain members of the special committee of the Guardian Council and Mousavi.

The opposition has scored a victory in persuading the regime to conduct an investigation, though there is little likelihood of reaching a compromise soon since Mousavi has already rejected the partial recount. So far, Mousavi has been doing about as well as Gore after the Florida scandal and, despite somewhat shrill defensiveness of Ahmadinejad supporters like Ejei, the effort to reach a compromise remains evident:

  • According to Press TV, “Members of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission are scheduled to meet senior clerics Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi and Ayatollah Morteza Moqtadayi in Qom on Monday to address the issue of turmoil in the country over the election results.”

  • In addition, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Head of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced that the commission had met with ex-president Mohammad Khatami to discuss the crisis.

  • MP Heshmatollah Falahatpishe called on the Guardian Council to show no leniency and clearly announce any election fraud.”

It is noteworthy that Makarem-Shirazi is the ayatollah who on Thursday called for “national reconciliation.” With speaker Larijani sidelined on a curiously-timed trip to Algeria, it was unclear how actively Majlis (Parliament) would get involved in the crisis. For the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission to be meeting with senior clerics nicely symbolizes the critical nature of the ruling alliance of conservative clergy and the national security elite and positions Majlis to push for a compromise. The announcement that the commission had already met with Khatami, who stepped aside in favor of Mousavi would seem to strengthen Mousavi’s position both by suggesting the commission is open to opposition pleas and by raising the visibility of the so-far quiet symbol of elite moderation. True to his reputation, Khatami said, “We should make every effort to win back the trust of a certain segment of the society. We should all try to resolve the current problems so that the society moves toward peace”—a statement strikingly in contrast with the uncompromising attitude of Ejei. (Note, however, an alternative interpretation, namely, that the meeting with Khatami constitutes pressure on him to intervene on Ahmadinejad’s side! Perhaps, but that would seem to indicate a significant degree of regime nervousness.) It was also interesting that the report added that the committee had already held meetings with Rafsanjani and Mousavi but is only “scheduled” to meet with Ahmadinejad. The stance that Larijani adopts when he returns to Iran will merit close attention.

Note: IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, has not, as far as I can determine, carried similar reports.

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