Something to watch in Iran Posted by: McQ
on Thursday, December 07, 2006
Michael Ledeen is reporting that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah ali Khamenei has been secretly rushed to a hospital in serious condition:
Khamenei is known to be suffering from cancer, and taking considerable quantities of an opium-based pain killer. He has lost more than 17 pounds in the past ten months, and was told last spring that he was unlikely to see another New Year (In the Iranian calendar, the New Year begins at the end of March).
At the same time:
The Supreme Leader has good reason to keep his condition secret, and to seek to demonstrate he retains his ability to rule the country. Khamenei knows that his regime is riven by intense conflict, some of which has been dramatically exposed in recent weeks in the run-up to the election of a new Assembly of Experts (the clerical body whose main responsibility is the selection of the Supreme Leader).
Got that? Not a good time to be sick or feeling poorly if you're the real power in Iran. Khamenei is considered, relatively speaking, to be fairly moderate and one of the reasons Iranian President Ahmadinejad (spelled below by Ledeen as Ahmadi-Nezhad) is believed to have relatively little real power.
Ledeen, however, points out that recently some of Khamenei's closest allies have met their demise in a suspicious plane crash. One has to assume, then, that Khamenei may have orchestrated this:
A week ago, the Majlis (the national assembly) passed a law effectively reducing the presidential term of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad by a full year. This was universally seen as an attack in favor of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmadi-Nezhad’s most visible political rival, and a candidate to succeed Khamenei.
Also according to Ledeen, unrest continues to grow within Iran:
Meanwhile, as reported in Iran Press News, the ongoing public challenge to the regime itself continues unabated.
On Wednesday, thousands of students demonstrated on the campus of Tehran University, chanting “death to despotism,” and “death to the dictator.” And in Mazandaran Province, up by the Caspian Sea, thousands of angry workers protested in front of Ahmadi-Nezhad himself, announcing they were starving and demanding the government honor its promise to improve the lot of the poor.
Campus protests, at least to me, aren't particularly damning. Name a country in which they don't occur. However protests by workers carry a little more weight and may actually indicate real problems.
Now, given that an obvious power struggle appears to be going on, Khamenei is reported to be gravely ill, the Assembly of Experts is being formed (one would assume to pick a sucessor to Khameni), I remind you of this little nugget reported here a few days ago:
Mesbah-Yazdi, an ideological mentor to Ahmadinejad, is an extremist cleric who endorses the use of suicide bombers against Israel and for confrontation with the West.
He is also campaigning to succeed Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini as head of the Iranian Islamic state, and his ties to fellow fundamentalist Ahmadinejad give him a leg up. If he wins, as appears all too probable, Iran will be taking another step away from democracy and toward war.
Again, watch for the name Mesbah-Yazdi in the coming weeks and hope that he doesn't come to power. If he should, look for Ahmadinejad's power to increase substantially along with the real threat from an increasingly extremist Iranian government.