The protests and violence over last week’s elections in Iran have made an impact on the mullahs who clumsily appointed Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to another term as their mouthpiece. In an attempt to mollify Iranians taking to the streets over the ridiculous vote tallies published by the government, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly recommended a Guardian Council probe into election irregularities. They’re playing for time (via King Banaian):
Iran’s supreme leader ordered an investigation Monday into claims of fraud in the country’s presidential election, marking a turnaround by Iran’s most powerful figure and offering hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the powerful Guardian Council to examine the allegations by opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims widespread vote rigging and fraud in Friday’s election, state television reported.
“Issues must be pursued through a legal channel,” state TV quoted Mr. Khamenei as saying. The supreme leader said he has “insisted that the Guardian Council carefully probe this letter.” The day after the election, Mr. Khamenei urged the nation to unite behind Mr. Ahmadinejad and called the result a “divine assessment.”
So much for divine intervention. Khamenei and the GC may need to find a way out of their predicament, and this could be the first signal that Ahmadinejad might have to go under the bus. If the level of anger and unrest grows in Iran, the people will want to see some heads on spikes (perhaps literally), and the mullahs will want to ensure that theirs are not among them.
Of course, that’s why they have Ahmadinejad in the first place. The mullahs use the president and the assembly for two reasons. It gives the illusion of participatory democracy in a country strictly run by a panel of theocrats, which keeps the pressure off of the mullahs most of the time. When the pressure becomes too intense, as it appears to be getting at the moment, this mechanism also provides handy patsies to toss to the crowds.
Don’t forget that the mullahs hand-picked these candidates from the beginning, including Mirhossein Mousavi, who apparently was meant to be a credibility-boosting loser for the Guardian Council but won a lot more votes than they had guessed he would. The mullahs can put Mousavi in the office and still run the country just as they have done since 1979, as long as they don’t provoke a revolution by sticking with an unpopular mouthpiece and a badly-rigged election. If the “probe” itself doesn’t calm the situation, the mullahs will discover (and undoubtedly “prove”) that Ahmadinejad corrupted the election, have him arrested, and likely executed quickly to sate the mobs — and to distract them from the real corruption in Iran.