The Diplomat: The Iranian regime is building up to the June presidential elections, which will shape an extremely significant period in that regime’s future. The incoming president will rule over a period in which disputes over Iran’s nuclear program will have to come to a head.
By Lord David Alton
The Iranian regime is building up to the June presidential elections, which will shape an extremely significant period in that regime’s future. The incoming president will rule over a period in which disputes over Iran’s nuclear program will have to come to a head. Estimates suggest the regime is edging towards a nuclear weapon and this could well be achieved in the near future. It may well also be the period in which the regime loses its key ally President Assad of Syria. Include in this an ever changing picture in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is no wonder Iran’s supreme leader has got his claws out in this presidential election.
Take a glance at the election coverage and you would think not much has changed. It is simply another Iranian election in which large numbers of candidates are rejected by the Guardian Council, nothing new there then. Take a closer look at the candidates being rejected and it speaks volumes of an ever increasing power struggle. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is a founding father of the Iranian regime. For such a figure to be sidelined indicates that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will not be taking any risks this time around.
Divisions in 2009 were used by the Iranian people to push forward with demands for regime change. Election rallies turned into widespread protests, which were ultimately brutally crushed by Khamenei’s militant core. Khamenei does not forget easily and four years on, the process of excluding candidates speaks of a new core in the Iranian regime.
Many will wonder whether Khamenei has miscalculated in sidelining one of the pillars of this regime in such a disrespectful swipe. The reality is he has no choice. The message sent in this act is that anyone who stands in his way will be sidelined, sending fear into the wider population for any attempt at public discontent.
What will shock many in Iran is how Rafsanjani is being treated by the very regime he has helped found and establish. Rafsanjani played a decisive role in propelling Khamenei to the position of the supreme leader. As the chair of the Expediency Council, Rafsanjani is a Khamenei personal appointee and as a member of the Assembly of Experts, he has a say on the fitness of the supreme leader in the framework of the clerical regime.
It may take some time until the full impact of Khamenei’s actions begins to sink in, but the consequences can already be predicted. One obvious effect from this purge is that the regime is eroding its powerbase, rendering it weaker and more vulnerable. The rejection of Hashemi Rafsanjani will also irreparably spread factional discord and fissures and feuding within the regime’s rank-and-file, an eventuality that could result in uncontrollable consequences for the regime as a whole. In short, the regime may be imploding.
The cracks in the regime now appear wider and deeper than ever. Couple this with the fact that Iranians face huge inflation and lack the most basic of human rights and the anger is intensifying. The build up to these elections is huge and the opposition movement knows this more than anyone.
The West undoubtedly will fear the ramifications of what will follow these elections. However, we must not be guided by what is essentially a different face of the same regime. Solutions do exist which will not require military intervention. The solution lies outside the regime and in the legitimate and democratic opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
The West has always looked for reformists to guide the regime away from confrontation. There are however no reformists in this regime and there never have been, but even if they did exist Khamenei’s purge would have sidelined them once and for all. Anyone looking for democratic change in Iran need look no further than Mrs Rajavi and her opposition movement. Regime change by the Iranian people is the only solution to this crisis.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, a crossbench member of the UK’s House of Lords, is a member of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom