It is hard to understand the reference to “ordinary people”. For at its core this is ultimately a story of a society at odds with its rulers. The aforementioned Ayatollah Mesabh-Yazdi, a senior clerical ally of Khamenei, professes to “feel that the danger facing us today is more threatening than the regime has ever faced”; he adds that “even some of the highest officials in the state do not believe in the supreme leader”.
Thirty-three years after the revolution of 1978-79, the Iranian establishment’s ruling sphere has narrowed to the extent that three ex-presidents – Mir-Hossein Moussavi (1981-89), Akbar-Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) and Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), as well as the large political networks connected with them – are now its internal enemies.
This last-stand revolutionary consolidation has occurred under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. The same political logic means that a new “deviant current” now presses on the man whose regime stole an election, whose adherents regard senior members of his administration (such as his chief-of-staff Esfandiar-Rahim Mashaei) almost as subversive as members of the opposition.
The cleric and (real) opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, the former parliamentary speaker, puts it well: “The ship of state is today no more than a boat”. The winds of change are blowing outside and inside Iran, and it is now for this boat to weather coming storms.