Behind the bombings
Who would be the main beneficiary?
June 13, 2005
and Tehran on Sunday June 12,
2005, only five days before the elections, come as a surprise.
The question is who is behind these bombings? In my opinion, the
most likely suspect is some element within the regime itself. Why?
There is a long history of elements within the regime itself that
have exploded bombs and engaged in killings while blaming them
on the Mojahedin Khalgh or other opposition groups. Those precedents
include the bombings in the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad (which
killed over two
dozen innocent worshipers), the killing of Mehdi Dibaj (a convert
to Christianity), and possibly the deaths of about 500 Iranians
performing haj in Mecca in 1987.
The Usual Suspects?
One of the very few groups that has the capability and history
of bombings in Iran is the Mojahedin. They almost
always claim responsibility to prove their capabilities. The Mojahedin
bombings; therefore, it is safe to assume that they did not commit
Who would be the main beneficiary of the bombings on Sunday thus
having a motive to do so?
Sunday, June 12, was a major day. Several
main events were occurring simultaneously. In front of Evin
prison, a sit-in was on its fourth
day and growing. A hunger strike had already begun by pro-democracy
students in Tabriz, Yazd,
and Shahre Kord, and a hunger strike was scheduled to begin by
pro-democracy students and activists at the University
on Sunday. Women’s rights advocates were holding
a rally protesting
the discriminatory policies and constitution of the regime.
of this indicates the regime is confronted by many simultaneous
challenges, many of them growing as the June 17th election day
approaches. There are three main factions among the ruling fundamentalist
elites: hardliners (Khamanehi’s faction), reformists (Khatami’s
faction), and what I call expedients (Rafsanjani’s faction).
If the bombings were committed by regime elements, then what motivation
would each faction have to bomb on June 12th?
Khatami would not
order the bombings because this would not increase the likelihood
to vote for Moin, the candidate Khatami supports.
That would leave Rafsanjani (or his supporters) and Qalibaf (or
his supporters) as the other two main suspects.
taken indicate that Rafsanjani, Qalibaf, and
Moin are the top three contenders for the election (see polls
conducted by Jahad
Daneshgahi and IRNA).
Moreover, the polls indicate none would get the required majority
of the votes cast
necessary to win in the first round, thus making a second round
among the top two vote getters in the run-off election (to be held
in two weeks, if necessary).
The polls indicate that Rafsanjani is by far the
front runner, getting somewhere between 27% and 37% of the votes
of the respondents.
Qalibaf and Moin are running neck and neck, and Moin, (successfully
gaining the support of Nehzat Azadi and Melli Mazhabis) appears
to be closing the gap. On the other hand, Qalibaf has not succeeded
in persuading other hardline candidates (Larijani, Ahmadi-Nejad,
and Rezaee) to withdraw from the race.
A series of bombings would
increase the likelihood of votes going to Qalibaf as the self-proclaimed “Hezbollahi
Reza Khan,” promising
to restore order by massive repression. Therefore, because Qalibaf
is the main beneficiary of the bombings on Sunday, one may suspect
that he or his supporters may have been behind them.
It does not
seem likely that Rafsanjani, the consummate wily shark, is responsible
for this series of bombings. Although Rafsanjani
has been behind many, if not all, of the terrorist actions by the
regime in the past 26 years, the June 12 bombings do not benefit
him personally at this juncture. At this juncture Rafsanjani seems
assured to be one of the two candidates in the run off.
is Rafsanjani’s opponent in the second round, most Moin
voters would vote for Rafsanjani in order to keep Qalibaf out,
assuring a Rafsanjani victory. And if Moin is Rafsanjani’s
second round opponent, then Qalibaf and other hardline voters would
vote for Rafsanjani to keep Moin out. Thus, Rafsanjani would not
benefit from any bombing at THIS juncture.
Although logic indicates that Qalibaf or his supporters may be
behind the June 12 bombings, this is mere speculation. It appears,
however, that they are the only ones that have the capability,
history, and motive to do so. Nevertheless, much that occurs in
Iran is not rational. Only the future will show who exactly is
behind these bombings.
Even if the regime was to apprehend the
actual culprits and they were not declared “rouge elements
of the Ministry of Intelligence,” Iranians, by and large,
would not accept regime’s explanation. The problem for the
fundamentalist regime is that it lacks credibility among the population
due to a long history of deception. Like the boy who cried wolf
[choopan-e doroogh-goo], the people simply do not believe the word
of this regime.
Masoud Kazemzadeh is Associate Professor in the Department
of Political Science at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville,
Texas. He is the author of Islamic
Fundamentalism, Feminism, and Gender Inequality in Iran Under Khomeini (Lanham,
MD: University Press of America, 2002), and The Bush Doctrine
and Iran: Alternative Scenarios and Consequences (forthcoming).