Abolhassan Banisadr

"The Regime Cares Nothing about Human Rights"

In the background of Iran's election fraud a power struggle is raging over the successor to Ali Khamenei, whose son Mojtaba is favoured by many conservatives and radical powers within the regime, writes former Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr

Abolhassan Banisadr (photo: dpa)
Abolhassan Banisadr: "There are powerful forces close to Khamenei who want to make Khamenei's son Mojtaba the next supreme leader. To accomplish this they must weaken every viable opposition to their plan"

​​The events following the recent presidential elections in Iran are sometimes called a "white coup d'état". However, the number of the injured and dead now make continued use of this term impossible.

The election fraud occurred with such haste, reported the British newspaper "The Guardian", itself citing a politically moderate Iranian newspaper, that voter participation at the polls was more than 100 percent in over 30 cities, and in some cities more than 130 percent.

According to the Iranian constitution, the Supreme Leader can confirm the results of the presidential election only three days after the results are declared. The aim of this statute is to allow time for any complaints about irregularities to be filed.

Policy of disinformation

However, according to information provided by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a well-known director who works for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the Interior Minister notified Mousavi a few hours after the polls had closed that he had won the election.

He was told that Khamenei had accepted the results and asked him to prepare a suitable speech. At the same time he was asked to wait a few hours before delivering his speech to the public.
All this happened before the Revolutionary Guard stormed into Mousavi's headquarters and informed everyone there that their green democratic revolution was over.

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (photo: AP)
The pragmatic Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is under political pressure and has been accused of corruption by hardliners close to Ahmadinejad

​​Many questions remain open. Why is Rafsanjani – a very prominent politician as well as the mastermind behind the rise of Khamenei after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini – now being openly attacked for the first time and accused of corruption by Ahmadinejad, who has Khamenei's unconditional support?

And why has the newspaper "Keyhan", Khamenei's mouthpiece, also attacked Rafsanjani, threatening to charge him with serious misuse of power and extortion against the regime?

In response to the corruption charges Rafsanjani wrote an open letter to Khamenei, in which he indirectly discloses Khamenei's decision to conjure an Ahmadinejad victory out of the polls. Khamenei ignored the warning and led the coup d'état.

A "political volcano"

There are more inconsistencies. For instance, 15 days before the election, the regime allowed the people to express themselves politically in public for the first time in 28 years. Young people in particular took advantage of this opportunity not only to celebrate joyously, but also to show their anger at the regime. During this time not one demonstrator was attacked.

It is also not clear why the regime tolerated this political arena before the elections, but then turned the public debate between the candidates into a "political volcano", in which every candidate disclosed the corruption of the others, especially Rafsanjani, in order to then – via massive voter fraud – take everything away.

This raises the question of why Khamenei so openly and brutally violated the constitution by confirming the election results on the same day and calling it a "divine assessment" of Ahmadinejad's victory.

With his premature, unconstitutional confirmation of the election results he underscored his role in this coup. Perhaps he believed that the defeated candidates would not dare to call the results into question after he had confirmed the winner.

There are two explanations for this step, and both point to a leadership struggle. The first possibility is that Khamenei is ill. Rumours to this effect have intensified. If this is the case, then Khamenei's followers, who have enjoyed their advancement, must resolve the question of his successor while Khamenei is still alive.

In the service of Mesbah Yazdi

There are powerful forces behind Khamenei who want to make Khamenei's son Mojtaba the future supreme leader of Iran. Therefore they must weaken every viable opposition to their plan.

Mesbah Yazdi (photo: DW)
Radical visionary of the imminent return of the Mahdi: Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi is said to be the role model for Khamenei's son Mojtaba

​​Whether an individual or an organisation – those who stand in the way of this goal must be removed. But to do this they need Ahmadinejad as president.

Ahmadinejad attained the office of president due to the influence of Ali Khamenei and is thus completely under his control. However, they must also control the leading members of the judiciary and the legislature in order to safeguard their claim to power.

Consequently, Rafsanjani must be weakened or removed. He is the chairman of the Assembly of Experts – the only council that can control or dismiss the supreme leader – and the Expediency Discernment Council, which resolves legislative conflicts.

Both institutions could prevent Mojtaba from becoming Khamenei's successor. Mojtaba's guru is Mesbah Yazdi, well known for his opposition to all republican elements in the regime. Mojtaba is presently in charge of the Khamenei family's businesses.

He has demanded that Ahmadinejad be re-appointed, and has thus on a grand scale become his father's accomplice in this election fraud.

If the rumours about Khamenei's bad health are not true, there is a second possibility. This is that Khamenei, in the event of Mousavi's electoral victory, would have to refrain from repeatedly intervening in the country's politics.

On the one hand, this harkens back to the turbulent history between Khamenei and Mousavi, when the former was president and the latter prime minister, and, on the other hand, to the high expectations that Mousavi has awakened in the people.

Strategies against the enemies of the regime

photo: AP
"Anger and disappointment at a regime that cares nothing about human rights" – Mousavi supporters demonstrating at Azadi Square in Tehran

​​The initiators of the election fraud had a strong interest in getting as many people to the polls as possible in order to show that they have the support of the majority of Iranians and that the regime is legitimate.

They had to prove this legitimacy, and thus opened up the political sphere, allowed Mousavi's candidacy, and invited many politicians to participate. This was also the reason why the other candidates were able to hold assemblies without being attacked by the regime's guards. In this they were deeply mistaken.

After the elections Khamenei's goals consisted mainly of

  • showing the world that the regime enjoyed a high degree of legitimacy and popularity;
  • removing all political powers that opposed him;
  • eliminating all prominent persons who could thwart the plan for the succession to the supreme leader, including politically ambitious generals within the military and militia;
  • eliminating Rafsanjani, because he could stop the candidate favoured by the military-financial mafia from becoming the next supreme leader;
  • neutralising many of the political powers that could prove dangerous to the interests of the ruling mafia now and in the future;
  • keeping Ahmadinejad in power, because his obedience to Khamenei makes the above goals more readily attainable; and
  • enforcing a massive repression of the people and turning the joy and hope that prevailed during the election campaign into resignation and despair, thus thwarting any future threat from the people.

    Here the regime has miscalculated one factor: The people. It believed it could manipulate the people and then shove them aside; yes, even revile the people as mere hooligans, as Ahmadinejad called the demonstrators in the first few days of the protests.

    Yet it remains to be seen where these protests, which increasingly express anger and disappointment at a regime that cares nothing about human rights, will ultimately lead.

    Abolhassan Banisadr

    © Abolhassan Banisadr / Die Welt / Qantara.de 2009

    Abolhassan Banisadr was the first President of Iran, following the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the abolition of the monarchy. Banisadr was impeached on June 21, 1981 by the Iranian Parliament, allegedly because of his moves against the clerics in power. He left Iran the same year and now lives in exile in Versailles, France.

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