NewsSpecial WireIran’s hard-liners step up internal purge

Iran’s hard-liners step up internal purge

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Iran Focus: London, Mar. 03 – The recent announcement by the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Yazd that several officials from the Presidential Office of former President Mohammad Khatami had been arrested for “spying for foreigners” is part of a sweeping internal purge underway in Iran’s theocratic regime, according to well-informed sources in the Iranian capital. Iran Focus

London, Mar. 03 – The recent announcement by the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Yazd that several officials from the Presidential Office of former President Mohammad Khatami had been arrested for “spying for foreigners” is part of a sweeping internal purge underway in Iran’s theocratic regime, according to well-informed sources in the Iranian capital.

The rise to power of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, as Iran’s new president last year entailed a sweeping purge of hundreds of senior and mid-level officials in the country’s burgeoning bureaucracy. Supporters of Ahmadinejad’s two predecessors, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, have been fired from key positions in all the ministries, embassies, state banks, and other governmental institutions.

The purged officials include dozens of ambassadors and diplomats, all but one of the ministers, and more than three quarters of deputy ministers, department directors, and provincial governors, according to a confidential government report obtained by Iran Focus. Many of them have been replaced by several hundred officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) seconded to government positions.

Rafsanjani has publicly rebuked the massive purges, but sources inside the Iranian government say he and Khatami have no clout to withstand the onslaught by hard-liners under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s leadership.

Hard-liners justified the first waves of the purges as the “need for fresh blood after 16 years of misgovernment” by Rafsanjani and Khatami. In many cases, rampant corruption among officials close to the two former presidents was given as the reason for the reshuffle.

In its Thursday editorial, the hard-line daily Kayhan, called for “a bloodless purge” of “officials who belong to the petro-political mafia”. The paper, close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, defined this mafia as “a group of veteran officials in the banking, oil, and foreign service sectors who were able in the past to play a role in the formation of governments or in Majlis elections”.

“Members of this mafia have formed a complex web in the Oil Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, in banks, and in other institutions and have taken advantage of the country’s huge administrative and financial resources to serve their own political and economic interests”, Kayhan wrote.

“Ahmadinejad’s government can use patience and wisdom to wage a bloodless surgery that would rid the justice-seeking people of Iran of the ominous shadow of this network, and help the Enlightened Leader of the Islamic Revolution [Khamenei”> to achieve the sacred goals of the Islamic Republic”, the editorial added.

The editorial, which called for the “dismantling of this self-serving group”, left little doubt in the readers’ mind that its references to “prominent figures” who support this mafia allude to Rafsanjani and Khatami.

“Khamenei has successfully used the nuclear issue and Israel to purge the regime of his rivals”, said Ali Nasseri, an Iranian financial analyst based in Istanbul. “Rafsanjani is on the defensive and Khatami has no clout”.

On Thursday, Hassan Rowhani, the former secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, told students at the Open University in Yazd that news of the arrest of Khatami’s aides on espionage charges was not accurate, but he did not deny the arrests.

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