The events that have roiled Iran since the disputed June 12, 2009, presidential election are unprecedented in the 31-year history of the Islamic republic. Never before have citizens protested in such numbers to demand their rights be respected. In spite of repression, torture, widespread arrests, and even killings by the regime, the people took to the streets, although intermittently.
And never before have the rifts among the ruling factions been so noticeable.
Iran’s Green Movement does not seem to be a passing phenomenon, and it has taken both hard-line regime elements and Western observers by surprise.
The turbulence in Iran should not be viewed as a clash between reformists with secularist tendencies and an entrenched ruling clique. It is, rather, a power struggle between two camps.
In one camp is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and senior hard-line clerics who advocate for the status quo and a vigorous clampdown against the protests.
“Elected institutions are anathema to a religious government,” Yazdi, who is Ahmadinejad’s spiritual mentor, said last July, “and should be no more than window dressing.”
In early August, railing against protesters and opponents in a speech to the Association of Basij Scholars in Mashhad, Ahmadinejad said, “Let the swearing-in ceremony occur, and then we will take t…