[Marxism] Ahmadinejad appeals to Green movement's base

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 4 09:39:24 MDT 2013


NY Times April 3, 2013
Power Struggle Is Gripping Iran Ahead of June Election
By THOMAS ERDBRINK

TEHRAN — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not going quietly.

With only three months to go in his second and last presidential term, 
he has raised a series of controversies intended, experts say, to 
reshape his public image and secure the support of dissatisfied urban 
Iranians for his handpicked successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. It is 
all part of a power struggle ahead of the June election between Mr. 
Ahmadinejad’s faction and a coalition of traditionalists, including many 
Revolutionary Guards commanders and hard-line clerics.

With the demise of the protest movement that sprang up after the last 
presidential election, in 2009, Mr. Ahmadinejad and his supporters have 
emerged in the unlikely role of the opposition. They are now fighting 
the traditionalists who, among other things, take a tougher line in 
negotiations with the West on Iran’s nuclear program and would like to 
abolish the presidency — a locus of opposition to their power.

In Iran’s complex politics, these struggles are typically waged under 
the watchful eye of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali 
Khamenei, who ultimately decides the winners and losers, carefully 
balancing competing interests, to make sure no faction amasses too much 
power.

But this time, the jockeying for power is more than politics as usual. 
If the president and his supporters fail, they will lose any claim to 
immunity from prosecution and find themselves at the mercy not only of 
the judiciary but also of the country’s security forces, state 
television and influential Friday Prayer leaders, all controlled by the 
traditionalists.

Already, prosecutors have opened several files against Mr. Ahmadinejad’s 
lieutenants and are publicly warning them of possible prosecution on 
charges of financial corruption, mismanagement and deviating from Islam.

That is not to say that Mr. Ahmadinejad has had an epiphany and is ready 
to embrace Western democracy. Nor has he renounced his Holocaust denials 
and denouncements of Israel. But in recent months he has surprised his 
many critics in the West by challenging his enemies, sometimes in ways 
that are shockingly public.

In February, during a session of Parliament that was broadcast 
nationwide, he showed a secretly taped video of a meeting between one of 
his allies and Fazel Larijani, the youngest of five influential brothers 
closely associated with the traditionalists, who Mr. Ahmadinejad said 
was proposing fraudulent business deals.

At the funeral of Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan leader, he was 
photographed embracing the former president’s mother, a display that was 
denounced by the clerics, who forbid physical contact between unmarried 
men and women who are not closely related. But urban Iranians, many of 
whom have moved far beyond the social restrictions set by the Islamic 
republic, viewed his action as a simple gesture of friendship.

Despite his early advocacy of Islam’s role in daily affairs, the 
president is now positioning himself as a champion of citizens’ rights. 
“He more and more resembles a normal person,” said Hamed, a 28-year-old 
driver in Tehran who did not want his last name used. “He doesn’t allow 
them to tell him what to do.”

In speeches, he favors the “nation” and the “people” over the “ummah,” 
or community of believers, a term preferred by Iran’s clerics, who 
constantly guard against any revival of pre-Islamic nationalism. He has 
also said he is ready for talks with the United States, something other 
Iranian leaders strongly oppose under current circumstances.

Mr. Ahmadinejad regularly brings up the topic of corruption by other 
officials, and he hints that they have accumulated wealth and power 
because of their positions. “Some of the relationships, which had been 
formed as a result of groupings and power-mongering pursuits in the 
country, have come to an end, and with the help of God will be purged 
from the revolution and the holy Islamic republic,” he asserted recently.

The president has also taken to using the slogan “long live spring” in 
his speeches, which some have interpreted as an allusion to the Arab 
Spring uprisings. “This way of thinking and talking about ‘Human 
Awakening’ is political mischief and dangerous,” one newspaper wrote in 
an editorial.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s maneuvering is all about his legacy, experts say, an 
effort to preserve both his political power and his allies.

“In effect, the president has created a new current in Iran’s political 
establishment,” said Reza Kaviani, an analyst at the Porsesh Institute, 
which is aligned with Iran’s former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi 
Rafsanjani, a moderate opponent of Mr. Ahmadinejad. “He has organized 
himself, placed bureaucrats in key positions. He will outlive his two 
terms, and so will his friends. But how he will remain and at what costs 
is unclear for now.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s support of Mr. Mashaei, his spiritual mentor and the 
father-in-law of his son, is a particular stick in the eye for the 
conservatives, as well as a subtle appeal to more progressive Iranians. 
In messages filled with poetic language, Mr. Mashaei repeatedly 
propagates the importance of the nation of Iran over that of Islam.

Leading ayatollahs and commanders say that Mr. Ahmadinejad has been 
“bewitched” by the tall, beardless 52-year old, whom they have called a 
“Freemason,” a “foreign spy” and a “heretic.” They accuse Mr. Mashaei of 
plotting to oust the generation of clerics who have ruled Iran since the 
1979 Islamic Revolution and of promoting direct relations with God, 
instead of through clerical intermediaries. He and his allies, they say, 
are part of a “deviant” current.

In response to Mr. Ahmadinejad, several opponents have warned about 
unrest and “sedition” around election time, comparable to the protests 
and riots after the president’s 2009 re-election, when millions took to 
the streets to dispute his victory.

“However, this time the scenario comes from figures who appear to be 
loyal and hold an office in the establishment,” Avaz Heydarpour, a 
lawmaker and critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad, told the Farda News Web site in 
March.

Those opposing Mr. Ahmadinejad are the same clerics and Revolutionary 
Guards commanders who supported Mr. Ahmadinejad’s candidacy in 2005 
because he promoted religious values. They also backed him during the 
2009 protests, cracking down on the opposition with blunt force at high 
political cost.

The presidency has evolved over time, starting out weak in the early 
years of the revolution but taking on greater importance after the 
abolition of the office of prime minister in the late 1980s. Once in 
office, presidents now create their own power bases, often clashing with 
the very people who backed their rise to power.

“All presidents in Iran start out under the patronage of a powerful 
faction,” said Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a former member of Parliament 
who is critical of Mr. Ahmadinejad. “But after they gain power they 
create their own circles and say they represent the people.”

The factional wrangling may well be a preview of what could unfold in 
Iran over the coming months. The first critical point may come if the 
Guardian Council, which vets candidates for public office, rejects Mr. 
Mashaei’s candidacy. In that case, said Ehsan Rastgar, a political 
scientist, “only the leader can decide.”

Ayatollah Khamenei has for now tried to calm the warring factions, 
repeatedly warning that their infighting is hurting the country’s interests.

Of late, the ayatollah has allowed Mr. Ahmadinejad to score victories in 
minor battles, like preventing Parliament from bringing him in for 
questioning. While both factions claim to have the ayatollah’s support, 
his position is unclear, and deliberately so, many Iran experts say.

If Mr. Mashaei’s candidacy is ultimately rejected by the Guardian 
Council, Ayatollah Khamenei can keep the peace by issuing a decree that 
would allow him to run, as he did for a reformist candidate in 2005.

“If Mr. Ahmadinejad refrains from all-out speeches with grandiose 
statements following a possible disqualification of Mr. Mashaei by the 
council, there is a chance the leader will allow him to run using a 
state decree,” Mr. Rastgar said. “If not, we might witness unrest.”




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