If Khamenei falls the Islamic Revolution may unravel
I am not persuaded by reports that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s presidential jet is being “made ready” to lift him out of the country in the event of an impending overthrow.
When I arrived on the tarmac at Shiraz International Airport in the south of Iran a week ago, there were no fewer than two official jetliners sitting there. An antiquated Boeing 707 and a newer Airbus.
The ruling elites in Iran (and there are many) have access to a whole range of state paraphernalia for moving about the country, and out of it. When I interviewed him on the day before Christmas Eve, President Ahmadinejad could have moved a total of some 500 officials with ease from Shiraz to anywhere within several thousand miles.
Even if I’m sceptical about the plane, I do think it is right to focus on Khamenei. His position is becoming increasingly fragile.
The death of Ayatollah Montazeri just ten days ago, served to underline how junior and unimportant an Ayatollah Khamenei was when he came to power. Montazeri was infinitely more learned and more senior. No one has ever accused Khamenei of being over endowed either with brains or spiritual insight.
He’s been a place man holding the ring between those clerics like Montazeri who did not want the clergy in government and those like the founding father of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei, who did.
The question remains. Who gave the order to shoot live rounds at protesters on Iran’s holiest day of Ashura? Who ordered the “assassination” of Ali Habibi, the nephew of presidential candidate Mousavi? Did Khamenei give his blessing?
The Islamic Revolution in Iran is going the way of all revolutions – it is rotting from within.
It is demonstrating its weakness by proving unable to risk arresting the actual leaders of the protests, instead jailing and killing the relatives of those leaders.
Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has already had her prize taken from her by the regime, now her sister Nooshin – a professor of medicine – has been arrested.
My sense, as the last Western journalist to look into the eyes of President Ahmadinejad, is that he is not the key to his country’s destiny. He was “favoured” by Khamenei to be regarded as the victor of the 2009 elections.
Khamenei forced him to sack a relatively liberal first Vice President Mashaei. (Mashaei was caught attending an event in Turkey three years ago at which, perish the though, women danced). I saw Mashaei in Shiraz, a surprisingly approachable man who has now been translated into Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff.
I found people around the president more talkative than a year ago. One man, who I had conversed with before, on the fringes of the group, confided that there were only two true loyalists left in the president’s inner circle – Mashaei and his chief press man. The rest he said “are there for the ride”.
Ahmadinejad is a religious technocrat – a town planner who’s PhD was on traffic management – a much required science in Iran.
If Khomeini falls, he falls. If Khamenei falls, the Islamic Revolution itself may unravel.
This rotting of the revolution manifests itself in the rampant corruption in the clerical and Revolutionary Guard classes. They are eating the Iranian economy from within.
Vast sectors are now in the hands of young guards who were hardly born at the time of the revolution. The volunteer Basij class – once highly ordered from above – is now at large on the streets, largely out of immediate control.
Sitting in front of Ahmadinejad at the tomb of the great Persian poet Hafeez, seven days ago, I did not feel I was anywhere near the controlling eye of the storm.
Events are running in Iran, and the revolutionary system is too divided, too much at war with itself to retrieve the initiative.
Killing may be its last recourse. In which case poor Iran must prepare for still more funerals.
Speaking of which, the government is at odds with its own Islamic law by failing to release the body of Mousavi’s nephew for burial within 24 hours of his death.
They fear the consequences of such a funeral.