Is there a struggle for power at the heart of the Iranian regime?

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As expected, Khamenei suffered a setback for playing the Raisi card in the election. His position has been weakened as a result and has exacerbated the differences within the regime.

In order to compensate for his failure Khamenei has adopted a defensive position, which is clear indication of weakness as a collapse of this position will mean collapse of the entire regime’s integrity.

Hence, parties to the conflict are at the heart of the struggle for power. Meanwhile, social dissatisfaction against the powerful and experienced opposition continues to lurk in the background, making them wary.

But the dramatic level of contradictions within the regime – that stems from the structural conflicts of the Velayat-e-Faqih system, due to their totally different social, regional and international status – has forced them to exacerbate the power struggle at the top of the post-electoral system.

What are the conditions that have aggravated the struggle for power among the top? The fundamental factor is the social discontent, which is associated with its leadership. The response of the regime to this social discontent that was linked to the regime’s lack of legitimacy has been brutal repression for nearly 4 decades.

Social discontent

Hassan Rouhani used the plank of social discontent to attract votes of the so-called “Grey Layer”. He recognized the real opposition groups are crossing one of the most critical red lines of the regime to reveal the widespread executions of the regime (the executions of the 1980s and the massacre of political prisoners in the summer of 1988). “For 38 years, you have been answering the demands of the people with jail and execution,” he said.

This happened while the power struggle was on over the agreement on 2030 document. The other factor is the change of regional and international conditions compared to Obama presidency, which was a golden opportunity for the Iranian regime.

In the White House, the appeasement policy has been replaced by confrontation against Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. The regime media has named the new US Senate sanctions as “mother of all sanctions”. It is a much harder and wider set of sanctions that existed before the nuclear deal and has a capability to completely paralyze its economic system.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran on Aug. 30, 2014. (AP)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran on Aug. 30, 2014. (AP)

Hasan Rouhani is willing to take greater share of power proportional to his votes after the election. In a recent speech, he said: “Some of us think that we can command people and they must obey. However, Prophet and Imams were not like that.”

On the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp’s (IRGC) dominant control over Iranian economy, Rouhani said: “A part of economy was in the hands of unarmed government that has been delivered to an armed government. This is not privatization of the economy. People were earlier afraid of the unarmed government. Obviously they are afraid much more now because economy is in the hands of an armed government that is controlling media and has everything and nobody can compete with them.”

Khamenei had already warned Hassan Rouhani on June 12, that he might have the same destiny as Abolhasan Banisadr in 1981. Khamenei intensified the attack on Rouhani using the “fire with self-authority” tactic during the show of Quds day by slangs such as “Rouhani and Banisadr, your union is congratulated!”, and “Death to American Mullah!”, and “Death to Hypocrite!”.

The street-spill

This demonstrates unprecedented and dramatic rise in the tussle for power within the top figures of the regime, which has spilled onto the streets.

The strong opposition, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), is holding its annual grand gathering on July 1 in Paris with an enhanced and evolved position. This gathering is representing the Iranian and international delegation against fundamentalism to change the regime in Iran with the most magnificent aspect.

This gathering is a maneuver that shows the power of the main opposition against the Mullahs regime in Iran, while “litigation movement” for the martyrs of 1988 massacre has been publicized everywhere and Khamenei was forced to take a position in his public speech.

He reached out to the families of victims who want follow up of their cases. They chanted slogans such as “we do not participate in sham elections”, “we say no to both liar and murderer” and said that “do not allow that the places of Martyr and Murderer change”!

Whether this struggle means anything for the Iranian people, and the opposition movement, remains to be seen.