Imagine what would happen if Khamenei stood up at the next Friday prayer session and reversed his previous course 180 degrees. He orders that the social police, Basilj and Iranian Hezbollah be dissoved. The IRCG is to become part of the regular army, avoid politics and give up all economic roles. The post of Surpreme Leader will henceforth be totally ceremonial and advisory only. Censorship of TV, the internet, and movies and shows will be strictly forbidden. The Guardian Council is to be abolished. Elections are to be free and open. All political prisoners are to be released immediately.
HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE FOR KHAMENEI'S DECAPITATED HEAD TO WIND UP IN A BURLAP BAG?
Can anyone imagine new-enriched, greatly empowered IRCG generals tolerating such changes?
After the 2000 Majis election and Mohammed Khatami's 2001 election, Khamenei made a fatal choice. He could have gone along with the ascendant reformers, who represented deep and widespread popular opinon, or he could vastly increase the power of his security forces, granting them "total freedom to oppress" while building a puppet electoral alternative with no scruples for future elections.
Typically Khamenei eliminated immediate and mid-range threats by creating much greater long-run threats. Up to the 2009 election reformists were the only power-seeking faction likely to give the mujllahs a soft landing. Having converted into future revolutionaries waiting for the magma to build, Khemenei can no longer expect an easy time from any faction that ousts him.
Khamenei still needed reformers and the effects of their absence on upcoming Majlis elections shows why. His solution was to institute a kind of "soft control" what would cripple reformers just enough to keep them from any position of power. It worked until Mousavi's huge and unexpected triumph in 2009. Once again, Khamenei might have been better off to throw in with reformists but once again he chose to thwart them. Khamenei snatched away their victory on the mistaken assumption that most Iranians would not notice or would not complain much if they did. As a result he has been forced to turn Iran into an undisguised police state with only the pretence of democracy. Since elections have become an empty show, most Iranians have decided not to show at all.
Khamenei also underestimated two other things--the pent-up desires for change and the animousity toward anyone seen to thwart it. Instead of eliminating Iranian aspirations for democracy, human rights and economic prosperity, oppression reinforced such desires while discredit the idea that Iranians could obtain such things within the system. After 2009 every Iranian knows the chances of that happening are equal to those in the late Brezhnev Era.
The ruling mullahs made permanent enemies of 70% of the population when they crushed advocates of human rights. Having developed "irreconcilable differences" with the lovely but ambitious Mahmoud, Khemenei's Bride of 2009, they've alienated another 20%. That doesn't leave much--a few illiterate fanatics and the all-important security force crutch. Without it, the mullahs would not survive a week. In exchange for protection, Khamenei surrendered most political, military and economic to his generals, except for what Ahmadinejad still retains. The joke in Khamenei's predicament now is that whatever power Mahmoud or the generals have at present, who gave it to them? Why would they give it back upon request? How could a leader who prides himself on cynical and hard-headed realism have been so naive as to imagine otherwise?
Established but Disguised Fact: KHAMENEI IS NOW A FIGUREHEAD
His power is now as "real" as Iran's elections. Don't be fooled because his commands are obeyed--most of the time (Ahmadinejad's recalcitrance shows Mahmoud grasps the hollowness). Such commands are obeyed ONLY so long as Khamenei's interests and those of security forces coincide in which case harsh orders look better coming from him. The moment Khamenei gives orders his generals dislike, any iillusions about who The Real Boss in Iran these days will be striped bare. So consider options available to the ruling generals down the road:
Scenario A: GENERALS ELIMINATE AHMADINEJAD When rule comes down to hard-line mullahs and generals, why share? The generals might hope to reap a temporary boost in popularity by sacrificing Khamenei as their equally rich counterparts did to Mubarek in Egypt.
Scenario B: GENERALS PLAY OFF TWO SIDES: It's the old Khamenei strategy used in reverse. (Aren't the generals already doing this?)
Scenario C: GENERALS SWITCH TO AHMADINEJAD. The problem with this idea stems from Ahmadinejad devious nature and tricky ambitions %and fair-sized support base (especially compared to the mullahs) makes him too dangerous when combined with a fairsozed popular base that could range as high as 15 to 20%. The genearls won't need his assistance to crush the mullahs. Their best strategy is to join with the latter to crush him then destroy their mullah allies.
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