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News | Guards Set Back in Majles amid Charges They Intervened in Election

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

29 May 2012 07:15Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic 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.

AliLarijaniFlags.jpg7:15 a.m. IRDT, 9 Khordad/May 29 The election Monday of Ali Larijani, speaker of the Eighth Majles, as the interim speaker for the newly installed Ninth Majles has significant implications for the ongoing power struggle within the Islamic Republic's regime. As described here, the parliamentary elections that were held on March 2 and May 4 largely came down to a contest between two fundamentalist factions, Jebheh Mottahed-e Osoolgarayaan (United Front of Principlists) and Jebheh Paaydaari Enghlelaab-e Eslaami (Stability Front of the Islamic Revolution). The United Front's spiritual leaders are Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts, and his deputy, former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi. The United Front was supported by the traditional conservatives, such as Hezb-e Motalefeh Eslaami (Islamic Coalition Party). The Stability Front, led by the ultra-conservative cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, was backed by groups closely linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as former and current supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though some candidates appeared on both factions' lists, the two groups competed fiercely. It was widely reported -- see, for example, here and here -- that the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia that they control distributed leaflets against many of the United Front candidates and urged everyone to vote for the Stability Front.

After the elections, Majles deputy and Ahmadinejad critic Ali Motahari accused the Guards, commonly referred to as Sepah in Farsi, of inappropriate involvement in the elections. In a speech to parliament, Motahari said, "One of the weaknesses of the elections was that the intervention of Sepah in the elections in many districts was clear, and many candidates among those who were elected or not elected confirm this. Sepah was seriously supporting its own candidates. The intervention of Sepah in the elections is a danger to both Sepah itself and the Islamic Revolution." Another Majles deputy, Mostafa Kavakebian, also declared in the Majles that the Guards had intervened in the elections and that he has documents which prove it; he demanded that parliament form a commission to look into the matter. (Kavakebian, who used to present himself as a reformist, ran this year as a principlist and failed to win reelection.) There was also a claim that Larijani -- Motahari's brother-in-law -- had submitted a secret report to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about the Guards' intervention in the elections before Motahari went public with his accusations. Larijani, who in the 1980s was deputy Guard chief for ideological matters, is supported by the United Front. In his speech, Motahari said, "The highest officials of the nezaam [the political system] are aware of the intervention, and are not happy about it," a possible reference to the claimed Larijani report. Both the Majles speaker and his brother, judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, have implicitly confirmed Motahari's allegations.

The Guards and Stability Front supporters and members denied the allegations and accused Motahari of a variety of transgressions. Mojtaba Zolnoor, former deputy to Khamenei's representative to the Guards, called the allegations "absolute lies" and declared, "Motahari is saying the same things that the enemy's mass media such as the BBC and CNN are saying." Asking of Motahari, "How can he allow himself to enter issues that are for the highest officials of the nezaam?" Zolnoor demanded that the Guards take him to court. Lieutenant Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, head of the Guards' public relations office, issued a statement that denied the accusations and said that the Guards reserve the right to take Motahari to court. Parviz Soroori, a Majles deputy and former Guard commander said, "If Sepah intervened in the elections, then how come Motahari was reelected?" Hardline cleric Hamid Rasaei, a leading member of the Stability Front, accused Motahari of "insulting the president and Sepah." In response, Motahari explained in another Majles speech that he did not mean that all the top Guard commanders had intervened in the elections, but "if Sepah continues this" he will reveal the documents that prove his claims.

AliLarijani2.jpgOn Sunday, Melli-Mazhabi, a nationalist-religious website, reported on the existence of a tape recording of speeches by two Guard officers that clearly indicate the Guards did indeed intervene in the elections. The tape includes speeches, given on May 3 -- the day before the second round of voting -- by the cleric Hojjatinia, Khamenei's representative to Khatam ol-Anbiya, the Guards' engineering arm, and a commander Seraj, a Guard political ideologue, or hadian, at the shrine of Shah Abdolazim in Rey on Tehran's southern edge, in which they spoke about the elections and the Guards' positions.

In his speech, Seraj claimed that there is a triangle of high officials working against Khamenei: Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a "Mr. X," widely believed to be Ali Larijani. The goal of the political triangle, according to Seraj, is to force Khamenei to drink the "poison" of negotiating with the United States regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Following are some of Seraj's most important claims:

(a) Fearing the reaction of the nezaam, former President Mohammad Khatami and some of the reformists had to vote in the Majles elections.

(b) Both the "sedition" -- the Green Movement -- and the "perverted current" -- the circle around Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff and senior confidant -- believed that less than 40 percent of the people would vote in the elections and, thus, they did not take part. The perverted current wanted to use the low voter turnout it anticipated to pressure Khamenei to negotiate with the United States.

(c) The perverted current led the November attack on the British Embassy.

(d) The perverted current believes that Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, will run for president next year. Therefore, they are trying to get rid of him.

(e) A group inside Iran that has penetrated the nezaam has told the United States and Europe to impose sanctions against Iran. Seraj did not specify who is in this group.

(f) Both Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani advocate negotiations with the United States. To establish closer relations with Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad has begun participating in the meetings of the Expediency Discernment Council, which Rafsanjani chairs. (Ahmadinejad had not participated in the council's meetings for many years.)

(g) If the triangle of Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad, and Mr. X takes shape, the pressure on Khamenei to negotiate with the United States will grow. But if Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, father-in-law of Khamenei's son Mojtaba, becomes the next Majles speaker, the triangle will not form. (Mojtaba is believed to be close to some of the top Guard commanders.)

(h) When Haddad Adel was speaker of the Seventh Majles (2004-08), parliament had good relations with the Guards, whereas the Eighth Majles (2008-12) did not, something that concerns Khamenei. (In essence, Seraj was declaring the Guards' support for Haddad Adel's candidacy for Majles speaker.)

(i) If Larijani is again elected speaker, the tension between the Majles and the government will increase, because "Larijani's tone and language regarding the government are not appropriate."

In announcing his candidacy for the speakership, Haddad Adel declared, "Even if only I vote for me, I will run out of duty." He has been praising Khamenei and his son-in-law Mojtaba profusely, declaring that Khamenei is the deputy to Imam Mahdi and that after him Mojtaba will be the deputy. The Stability Front has thrown its support behind him, with Mesbah Yazdi supporting him publicly. It was reported that Khamenei traveled to Qom unofficially and met with Mesbah Yazdi, presumably to discuss the issue.

Interestingly, there appears to be a rift within the Guards regarding the Majles and Haddad Adel. In a blog post titled "With Reluctance I Prefer Larijani to Haddad Adel," Hamed Talebi, who leads the political division of Fars, the news agency that is controlled by a Guard foundation, wrote, "God forbid that more power, field [of activity], and leadership positions are given to those around Haddad Adel. If Larijani is elected the speaker [again], we know how we should handle it, but what can we say, given the track record of and our experience with the friends of Haddad Adel and the people that are close to him?"

AliLarijani3.jpgThe Ninth Majles finally began its work on Saturday. A large number of high officials took part in the ceremony for the opening session. One significant absentee was Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guard chief who almost invariably takes part in such ceremonies. His absence was widely interpreted as indicating the Guards' displeasure with Larijani. After the ceremony ended, parliament's first order of business Monday was the election of an interim leadership team. Khabar Online, which is close to Larijani, reported that there was a considerable amount of horse trading.

Larjani ultimately received 173 votes to Haddad Adel's 100 for the post of interim speaker. His election and that of two other major United Front figures, Mohammad Reza Bahonar and Mohammad Hassan Abootorabifard, to leadership positions represent major setbacks for the Guards' top commanders in Iran's power struggle. The results may even be interpreted as a setback for the Supreme Leader.

Kazem Jalali, secretary of the United Front's parliamentary group, said that the election of the speaker indicated "the weight of each faction within the Majles." He was referring to the claims by many Stability Front members that their faction has the upper hand in the legislature. Will the election of Larijani as interim speaker result in the Guards -- and possibly Khamenei himself -- pressuring the Majles deputies to change their votes when the election of a permanent speaker is held? Time will tell.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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