New York Times: On Wednesday, aides to Iran’s president lashed out publicly at two former presidents, the nation’s most influential dissident cleric said government officials had taken a “deviant path” and a government-aligned Web site reported that the Tehran prosecutor had been fired.
The New York Times
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
CAIRO — On Wednesday, aides to Iran’s president lashed out publicly at two former presidents, the nation’s most influential dissident cleric said government officials had taken a “deviant path” and a government-aligned Web site reported that the Tehran prosecutor had been fired.
In another time, the day’s flurry of crises might be seen as extraordinary. But since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed a landslide victory in Iran’s disputed election in June, each day there have been flare-ups in the increasingly bitter fight between political and clerical factions.
“The game in Iran is no longer between the reformists and the conservatives,” said Mustafa El-Labbad, an expert in Iranian affairs and the director of the Middle East Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “It is now between the pragmatists and the radicals.”
Wednesday was a day of charges and denials, of the president pressing his drive to consolidate power, of conservative critics of the president pushing back and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying charges of prisoner rape and torture must be reviewed but could be substantiated only by “irrefutable evidence.”
Ayatollah Khamenei said that while he thought the events that followed the elections were preplanned, he was not yet convinced that the leaders of the opposition were guilty of being having collaborated with foreign powers, “since the issue has not been proven for me,” according to the Web site of the state-run broadcaster Press TV. “There is no doubt that the events were planned, no matter whether their leaders knew it or not,” Press TV reported, citing the state news agency IRNA.
By midday charges and denials were flying between factions. Mehdi Rafsanjani, the son of a former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, denied that he was involved in a scheme to embezzle $2 million from a state business. Former President Mohammad Khatami condemned as “invalid” confessions read by his reformist colleagues, who are on trial charged with organizing a soft revolution. And a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards denied that members of the Basij militia had used weapons to crush demonstrations and kill protesters.
“They never used any weapon in the missions entrusted on them,” Gen. Abdullah Araqi, a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.
A dissident senior cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, once in line to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, released a letter on his Web site that struck at the moral and religious credentials of the leadership, saying it had chosen a “deviant path.”
“I hope they will compensate for their damages and not hold innocents in prison any longer,” he wrote, “and end the legal trials and the broadcasting of confessions, so that they no longer mock the Islamic judiciary; or at least have the courage to announce that this government is neither a republic nor is it Islamic.”
A lawmaker who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons said that protesters arrested during demonstrations not only were raped — as had already been charged — but were sodomized by “police batons and soft drink bottles,” according to Parleman News, a Web site affiliated with conservative members of Parliament who are critical of the president.
Still, it was the president who remained on the offensive. A day earlier, his hard-line allies in the prosecutor’s office called on a judge to ban the two main reform parties, effectively outlawing the political opposition. Then on Wednesday, his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, said that Mr. Khatami and Mr. Rafsanjani, the former presidents, had colluded to try to topple Ayatollah Khamenei.
Mr. Rafsanjani “wished to use the public support to put pressure on the supreme leader to resign,” Mr. Mashaei said in a speech quoted by news agencies.
Mr. Rafsanjani responded. “Mashaei’s prior history of mistaken claims and illogical speeches is so obvious that it needs no mention,” read the statement from Mr. Rafsanjani’s office.
But Mr. Ahmadinejad still faces a challenge by the so-called hard-line pragmatists, chief among them Ali Larijani, the speaker of Parliament, and his brother, Sadeq Larijani, the head of the judiciary. A pro-government Web site, Jahan, reported that the Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, had been fired by Sadeq Larijani. The decision was not officially confirmed, but political analysts inside and outside of Iran said that such a move had been expected. “We are now looking at the trials going from a means by Ahmadinejad to pressure the reformers to a means for Sadeq Larijani to put pressure on Ahmadinejad,” said Mr. Labbad, the Iranian affairs expert.
It was not clear where Ayatollah Khamenei stood on the Larijani-Ahmadinejad conflict since he had appointed Mr. Larijani and had announced his early support for Mr. Ahmadinejad. Since the revolution, Iran’s leaders have relied on chaotic situations like the Iran-Iraq war to consolidate power and sideline rivals.
“The Islamic state thrives on chaos,” said Rasool Nafisi, an academic and an Iranian expert based in Virginia. “The famous statement by Khomeini was that the Iraq war was a God-given event. He was able to consolidate his power and sideline all his opponents.”
Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting.