2009 June 18 Thursday
Iranian Power Struggle Over Ethics And Corruption?

Some of the people opposing Ahmadinejad in Iran have lots of money they are trying to protect.

Among those arrested Wednesday were prominent reform strategist Said Hajjarian, former vice president Ali Abtahi, former foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi, and prominent critic and editor Saeed Laylaz – adding to the scores of key Mousavi supporters already detained.

The moves are part of a power struggle among Iran's political elite 30 years after the Islamic revolution. Analysts speculate that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei is aiming to remove rival first-generation leaders – some of the original leaders of the revolution. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (a second-generation leader) is a useful ally in that effort.

On the other side, the anti-Ahmadinejad camp – motivated by dislike for the president's abrasive style, that they believe has damaged Iran's standing abroad – is striving to topple Ahmadinejad and preserve their own influence, and sometimes wealth, in Iran's opaque system of rule.

Is Ahmadinejad a reformist battling the corrupt old guard?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 June 18 10:40 PM  MidEast Iran

Trent Telenko said at June 19, 2009 7:16 AM:


It's all about the ethics of sharing between the Mullahs.

Think Mafia style sharing arrangements.

The Iranian regime security forces will act when they know which Mullah faction is the winner. They won't commit to any decisive actions until that is known.

Until then, we are seeing brownian motion between the Iranian public and the hard core Shia Islamists, plus their expendable foreign allies.

Trent Telenko said at June 19, 2009 7:28 AM:


This is the best thumb nail sketch I have yet seen of the Iranian Mullah money and power sharing fight:



Here’s a short primer:

This is a pissing match between Khameneni, the Supreme Leader and Rasfanjani, Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, who can elect or depose the Supreme Leader. They put their pit bulls in the fight ring, Ahdmenijad for Khameneni and Mosavi for Rasfanjani. By all accounts the expectation was that Ahdmenijad would win but by less than 50%, which would then allow a run off election where Rasfanjani hoped the other anti-Ahdmenijad forces would rally around Mousavi and give him the win. Khameneni, sensing this, rigged the election but instead of just getting Ahdmenijad over the 50% hurtle they screwed the pooch by giving him 64% of the vote, which was obviously outlandish.

So now they have squared off. Now here is where things get interesting and one might make the argument of social media starting a revolution. It was (and given Iranian elections probably expected) to have both sides protesting in the streets, to have some clashes, but these typically spike after an election and then simmer down. All expectations were that this would be bigger since the fight at the top was bigger (think the end scene in the Godfather). I think the conventional wisdom was the people can march in protest as much as they want, the Basij can crack as many skulls with their truncheons as they want, the determining power in all this will be the military and specifically the Revolutionary Guards. Whoever they place their marker with is going to win.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Azadi Square…and I would say this might be where social media is playing a role, though I would think SMS is actually more relevant, the people seem to have a different idea, or are developing a different idea. There’s talk now, and how serious is a question mark, of secularism and no more Mullah’s ruling coming from the Tehran Street. Now if this becomes the movement as opposed to the ‘election was stolen’ meme look out. It could get really bloody.

But Twitter didn’t start this nor is it fueling this, nor AIM, or SMS, or Google Maps or anything but a people’s desire for freedom, which has nothing to do with technology. As someone else pointed out, they had a revolution in 1979 without Twitter.

I don't think the real risk to the Mullahs is the Iranian public. They don't have enough guns and the organization to use them.

The Regime Security Forces are a different kettle of fish.

It is the threat of an Iranina Regime Security Forces "Alexander" -- an Honest man on a white horse -- rising up and cutting the Gordian knot of the Mullah factional confict by cutting not a few Mullah throats to the roars of the crowd.

The longer this money & power sharing fight beteen the Mullahs goes on, the bigger risk of that the Mullahs face.

Valkyrie said at June 19, 2009 2:12 PM:

"Is Ahmadinejad a reformist battling the corrupt old guard?"

What an incredibly stupid and ignorant thing to say.

ahmadinejad is fighting the corrupt old guard with his new corrupt guard that's even more corrupt and fanatical and backward.

He's not a fucking 'reformist' in anyway.

RKU said at June 19, 2009 7:25 PM:

Yeah, that's a pretty big aspect of the whole conflict, though obviously no one could discover that by reading the worthless American media.

Ahmadinejad is basically a populist-conservative, and has always been strongly opposed by most of the Establishment, much of which is extremely corrupt.

For example, two-term president Ayatollah Rafsanjani entered political life having no money and left it---by all accounts---a billionaire. I remember when his brother was interviewed on the Jim Lehrer Newshour a couple of years ago about whether he might run for president again: "He says he already has enough money, so there's no real reason to run." Think of Rafsanjani as something like a Russian Oligarch, and you get a pretty reasonable picture.

By all accounts, Ahmadinejad has distributed the oil money among the Iranian people in a populist (and somewhat ignorant) fashion, instead of stealing a big slice for himself, like Rafsanjani and lots of the other leaders. He also turned the last leg of the campaign into a referendum between himself and corrupt Rafsanjani, who was massively funding his opponent. That's why it's perfectly plausible to me that he actually did win the vote by the claimed margin, since it was almost identical to what he'd gotten in the previous presidential campaign he ran against Rafsanjani directly.

The American media is worth about as much in this was they were in the case of Saddam's WMD...and for exactly the same reason!

Randall Parker said at June 19, 2009 9:23 PM:


Before you call someone ignorant and stupid try first establishing that you know what the hell you are talking about. All I know about you now is that are rude, you are afraid to post with your real name, and you make assertions with no evidence.

Trent Telenko,

Secularists are in the minority in Iran.

Khameneni rigged the election? I think this is far from proven. Maybe. But the Iranian people are quite capable of voting for the more religious or less elitist candidate. They are also capable of voting for the faction that seems less corrupt to them.

Mousavi's association with Rafsanjani probably costs him votes if the public knows that Rafsanjani got extremely wealthy in high office.

Trent Telenko said at June 20, 2009 9:26 AM:


It's about the $haring and power, not religion or secularism.

This is from an acquaintance on a military-affairs e-mail list I have been on for years, who has spent some time following the situation.

Try thinking of the Iranian unrest in terms of family dynastic succession:

I found something that shifted the picture a lot for me. It was
probably obvious to most serious students of Iran, but...

The name of this possible keystone is Mojtaba Khamenei . Mojtaba
Khamenei is the son of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei, the supreme leader of
Iran. I think, pulling all the pieces together, that I see what the
argument within the powers that be of Iran is all about. Khamenei
wants to establish a ruling dynasty. Ahmadinejad has agreed to
support this in exchange for being number two. The other names are
representative of the opposition. Kourrabi, Rafsanjani, and Moussavi
are not natural allies in the conservative/liberal split.

Mojtaba's name popped up in the 2005 elections. In that election
there was a tight three-way split between Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani, and
Karroubi. Before the runoff even began, Karroubi made an accusation
of a conspiracy - of someone using IRGC, Basij, and one of the (for
lack of a better word) denominations of mosques of working to steal
the election through a combination of suppression and ballot-stuffing
all in favor of Ahmadinejad. He explicitly named Mojtaba as the
primary coordinator of this conspiracy. Ayatollah Khamenei reacted
strongly - closed some newspapers, suppressed some marches, etc. It
didn't reach the degree we see today, but it is the groundwork on
which the current situation lies.

Ali Khamenei is 70 in a nation of which the average lifespan for males
is 69. He gets excellent (for the nation, anyway) health care today,
but still is unlikely to live past 80. As the second Supreme Leader
of Iran, he watched what happened to his predecessor's family once
Khomenei died - a dwindling into obscurity and if not poverty
certainly reduced wealth. (He didn't direct it happen, probably, but
he certainly did nothing to stop it.) He was 'annointed' by Khomenei
and accepted unanimously, and it was generally assumed whomever he
selected would receive the same. However, he's been pushing his son
for about half a decade and there's been some resistance among those
who would have to approve this. There are multiple reasons for this,
most falling in resistance to a family dynasty that isn't "mine", some
in the apparent belief Mojtaba isn't as capable as his father.

I think it fairly important to point out that up to about a decade ago
Ahmadinejad, Kourrabi and Moussavi were all part of the "conservative"
balance - very opposed to the reforms Rafsanjani and Khatami
spearheaded. All five were veterans of the Great Revolution and had
voted in favor of Khamenei's appointment as Khomenei's successor. In
general it was believed (never openly stated) that Khamenei's leanings
over the split were generally in favor of the conservatives but with
sympathy to the liberals. I'll note that this may or may not be true
- Khamenei has been a brilliant tightrope walker.

The reason this is fairly important to note is that today Kourrabi and
Moussavi have flipped. Kourrabi did so within the past decade as
noted earlier in his run four years ago, and while Moussavi is still
more conservative we're all aware of the disagreement.

I think, pulling all the pieces together, that I see what the argument
within the powers that be of Iran is all about. Khamenei wants to
establish a ruling dynasty. Ahmadinejad has agreed to support this in
exchange for being number two. The other names are representative of
the opposition. Kourrabi, Rafsanjani, and Moussavi are not natural
allies in the conservative/liberal split.

In the long term, watch for the name Mojtada Khamenei. In the long
run we'll know which faction won - regardless of what appears to have
happened here - by where that name sits in the halls of power.

Or so I think.

Follow the money, Randall.

This is all about money and power sharing in a Kleptocracy with theocratic trappings.

The biggest power problem in a Kleptocracy is the decentralization of corruption in a state.

The unrest now is a manifestation of that problem as it deals with near-peer power factions that disagree with the cut.

TGGP said at June 20, 2009 11:41 AM:

There are worse things than corruption. Goo-goos, for instance.

Randall Parker said at June 20, 2009 12:14 PM:

TGGP, Goo-goos?

Valkyrie said at June 20, 2009 7:45 PM:

"Before you call someone ignorant and stupid try first establishing that you know what the hell you are talking about. All I know about you now is that are rude, you are afraid to post with your real name, and you make assertions with no evidence."

I don't need to bother posting evidence here just like I wouldn't bother posting evidence to someone saying 9/11 was an inside job or the illuminati controls Obama.

The revolutionary guard took over Iran's economy in a white coup 4 years ago, ahmadinejad can lead a simple life because to him power is the prize, but this fact is as clear as the blue sky.

They also want to end the reform movement once and for all, and this is where it's about more than just money.

There's so much bullshit about Iran in the media right now it would help you to spend some time reading about the country rather than making ignorant conclusions about what's happening in it.

And using my real name wouldn't really help you, but here it is: Mohammad Ali.

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