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News | A Growing Rift in the Revolutionary Guard?

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

23 Jan 2012 02:00Comments

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Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

2 a.m., 3 Bahman/January 23 Two weeks ago, Hossein Alaei, one of the most prominent wartime commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its first navy chief, published a commentary in the Ettelaat newspaper harshly criticizing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He did not name him, but drew an analogy between the state of affairs now and during the last year Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi ruled Iran. He was subsequently attacked by the hardliners, including 12 IRGC commanders, and the hardline media. He was however supported by other IRGC commanders and political figures such as Majles deputies Ahmad Tavakoli and Ali Motahari.

Then, in a nationally televised program, Emad Afroogh, a conservative academic and former IRGC officer and Majles deputy from 2004 to 2008, added his voice to Alaei's criticism of the establishment. He said Iran's political system has moved from one in which people had a voice to one in which a few people make decisions for the nation. Ali Sani Khani, another IRGC officer whose brother and father were both killed in the Iran-Iraq War, also defended Alaei and demanded that instead of attacking him, "the authorities" should respond to the questions he posed in the article.

Now a fourth IRGC officer has stepped forward and added his voice to the criticism of the nation's state of affairs. In an article on his blog, Gholam Ali Rajaei, a former IRGC officer, wrote, "There are criticisms of the Supreme Leader in society," and comments such as Alaei's are merely bringing those "whispers" into the open. Responding to the 12 IRGC commanders who accused Alaei of targeting Khamenei, Rajaei wrote, "Suppose that the target...of Alaei's article was the Leader. What is the problem? In what sense is this is a violation of the law?" He also criticized the attacks on Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush, the noted Islamic scholar; Ataollah Mohajerani, former vice president and minister of culture and Islamic guidance; Dr. Mohsen Kadivar, the noted Islamic scholar and supporter of the Green Movement, which forced the trio to move abroad. He rejected the notion that the gathering of hardline Basij members in front of Alaei's home took place "spontaneously," and said those behind such staged acts should not underestimate the people's intelligence.

After the 12 IRGC commanders criticized Alaei, he said that his article had been misunderstood. The same 12 commanders then wrote a second letter to Alaei and tried to take back their criticism. Raha Press, a pro-Ahmadinejad website, harshly criticized the 12 commanders, mocking them for their display of basirat (wisdom and insight) in writing the second letter, calling it a "festival of basirat," thereby apparently taking Khamenei's side. In the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election, Khamenei accused many high officials of not having any basirat, because they remained silent about the actions of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Raha Press asserted that the second letter demonstrated the "depth of the fiasco" and that it is unwise to place absolute confidence in the IRGC.

Three pro-Ahmadinejad websites warned that his opponents are going to implement a sort of "final solution" next month. According to an item in Akhbar-e Mahramaneh, the "main confrontation" between the supporters and foes of Ahmadinejad is going to begin soon, and that "the future is vague, but historical."

After Ali Akbar Javanfekr, director of IRNA, Iran's official news agency, and a principle adviser to Ahmadinejad was sentenced to one year of incarceration, Raha Press strongly criticized the sentence and interpreted it as an attack on the president. Raha Press claimed that there was a unified political spectrum against Ahmadinejad that ranges anywhere from the "counterrevolutionaries" to the hardline newspaper Kayhan and its managing editor Hossein Shariatmadari. Raha Press has also attacked Fars News Agency, which is run by the IRGC, accusing its managers of being "mentally ill."

On Friday, Super Enheraafi (Super Deviant), another pro-Ahmadinejad website, warned that "special events" would occur in February. It claimed that the president's opponents may try to bring him down either via impeachment in the Majles or assassination.

As reported earlier, former supporters of Ahmadinejad formed a new political group, Jebheh Paaydaari Enghelaab-e Eslami (JPEE, or the Durable Front of the Islamic Revolution), and are fielding their own candidates for the March 3 Majles elections. The leader of the JPEE is the reactionary cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. The JPEE published an eight-page bulletin harshly criticizing Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, Chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the spiritual leaders of pro-Khamenei forces in the Majles elections, which refers to itself as the Jebheh Mottahed-e Osoolgaraayaan (JMO, or the United Front of Principlists). The JMO countered with its own 80-page bulletin and attacked the JPEE for taking positions that run counter to the advice of Khamenei about the necessity for hardliners to stay united. It also claimed that the opposition between the two cleric-supported groups is "the work of the Khordad Second and the sedition groups." Khordad Second is a reference to the reformist coalition and "sedition" is the term given by Khamenei to the Green Movement. A group of Basij students at several universities in Tehran wrote a public letter to Mesbah Yazdi criticizing some of the positions that the JPEE has taken. Farda News, the website close to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, also criticized the JPEE bulletin. It said that the JPEE is trying to "theorize" the idea that only one group has all the qualifications, and the rest are unqualified. Finally, Ghasem Ravanbakhsh, a disciple of Mesbah Yazdi and member of the JPEE central committee, said that the positions of his group "are completely different" from those of the JMO.

Journalist and documentary filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad, who used to be an ardent supporter of Khamenei, has turned into one of his harshest critics. He has written 19 public letters to the Supreme Leader and also invited others to be part of this letter-writing campaign. Now that his 19th letter has been publicized, a website close to the security forces has accused him of financial and other corruption. An item in Nedaa-ye Enghelab declared, "As far as I know, you could not even get your associate degree in electrical engineering, let alone a doctoral degree, yet you present yourself everywhere as 'Dr.'" It accused Nourizad of "stealing" 60 billion rials (worth anywhere between $3 and $7.5 million, depending on the rate of exchange) to buy himself a mansion in northern Tehran and of having houses in several other neighborhoods in the capital.

Two websites connected to Ahmadinejad and the security forces claimed that when the term of the chairmanship of the Expediency Discernment Council expires next month, Khamenei will not reappoint Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to the post. Bultan News, a website linked with the security forces, speculated that Hassan Rowhani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator during the Khatami administration, will be the council's new chair. Rowhani is currently head of the council's Center for Strategic Studies.

Shabestan News Agency, which is run by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, analyzed the possibility that Rafsanjani might be assassinated, but dismissed the notion, pointing out that he is no longer an influential figure after losing the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts and control of Islamic Azad University. He also no longer serves as the Friday Prayer Imam of Tehran. Shabestan also speculated that he will not be reappointed as chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council.

Since the June 2009 presidential election, the hardliners' pressure on Rafsanjani has increased tremendously. In addition to losing all his influential posts, the website that reflected his views has been blocked, his daughter Faezeh Hashemi has been sentenced to six months in jail, and his 16-year-old grandson is under investigation. The family of one his sons has also been barred from leaving Iran.

As a result of a quasi-coup, Ahmadinejad has finally succeeded in taking control of the Islamic Azad University, Iran's largest university system and one of the largest of its kind in the world. It happened at the end of a meeting of the board of trustees of the university, which Rafsanjani leads. After the former president and his supporters left the meeting, the representatives of Ahmadinejad's camp on the board announced that Farhad Daneshjoo -- brother of Kamran Daneshjoo, head of the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology, which overseas the universities -- has been elected by the board as the school system's new president, replacing Dr. Abdollah Jasbi, a Rafsanjani ally who has led the university since its inception in 1982. Rafsanjani said that he will not sign the order for Daneshjoo's appointment, but Daneshjoo has said that he will not back down because the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution, an extra-constitutional body that control cultural affairs, has confirmed him as the new president of the university.

Mir Abbas Mousavi, an uncle of Mir Hossein Mousavi, passed away on Saturday. The leader of the Green Movement was not allowed to take part in the funeral, which was reportedly under tight security that included hundreds of uniformed security personnel and many more plainclothes agents. This show of force indicates the hardliners' concern about the Green Movement, an opposition force they say is dead.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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