The Iranian revolution of 1979 continues to eat itself as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has started off his second term by purging Iran’s intel agency of any hint of moderation. In fact, Ahmadinejad has made himself, at least temporarily, the head of the Intelligence Ministry, as Ali Khamenei’s “divinely authored” victor in the rigged June elections bounced at least one senior official close to the Supreme Leader. All of this has Russia wondering whether it should start distancing itself from the mess in Tehran:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tightened his grip on Iran’s powerful intelligence services, ousting four senior officials in a widening purge against authorities who challenged the harsh crackdowns after June’s disputed elections, lawmakers and media said Monday.
The shake-up at the Intelligence Ministry – the nation’s main spy agency – deepened the rifts straining Iran’s conservative ranks over Ahmadinejad’s strong-arm political tactics and the crushing response to the pro-reform opposition since the June 12 election.
It also sought to bolster Ahmadinejad allies in the Revolutionary Guard, which led the assaults and arrests against protesters who claimed the election was rigged. But now officials from other groups, including the police and judiciary, say abuses occurred and have called for investigations into the deaths and alleged torture. …
The Intelligence Ministry sweep came less than two weeks after Ahmadinejad angered conservatives by firing the intelligence minister, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, in an apparent dispute that reportedly included the handling of the clampdown on the unrest.
The Washington Post’s matter-of-fact reporting style puts Ahmadinejad at the center of this power play, but the better analysis would have the IRGC at the center. Both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei owe their position and their safety to the IRGC, which intervened in the protests when they reached their zenith and managed to intimidate enough Iranians through murders and threats of more to gain control of the situation. The removal of these people, especially those previously close to Khamenei who questioned the IRGC and Basiji actions in June and July, appears to be payback for their continued support and protection of the regime.
The IRGC runs Iran now. The removal of the Supreme Leader’s former fair-haired boys from the Intelligence Ministry all but confirms it.
That has some in Russia questioning Moscow’s immediate embrace of Ahmadinejad, and wondering where Russia will stand if the regime collapses:
According to an Aug. 6 piece published by the privately owned Nezavisimaya Gazeta, it’s time to give the divisive president the heave-ho.
“It appears that recent events in Iran, when the opponents of Ahmadinejad shouted slogans of ‘Death to Russia,’ indicate that Moscow’s defense of Ahmadinejad’s government has not been met with approval among a considerable portion of the Iranian population,” the editorial said.
“It appears that the idea that Iran is a regional power which Russia could use as a trump card in relations with the West has turned out to be mistaken,” the editorial says. …
The editorial pointed out that Russians are being singled out by the West and Iranians themselves as the primary backers of Ahmadinejad, possibly to Moscow’s disadvantage.
If and when a counter-revolution occurs, the government that replaces the current regime will remember who gave the mullahcracy succor, especially when it turned from a mullahcracy to a military dictatorship. The Russian “great game” goal would get blocked if a new Iran looks West rather than East as a consequence of Moscow’s support for oppressors. How do we know this? It’s the reverse of what happened in 1979, and it’s the exact dynamic that occurs in every revolution.
Russia has gambled on the ability of the IRGC to hold Iran long enough for the mullahs to regain popular legitimacy. It looks like a bad gamble these days.