Oh, please let this be true, even if it is about as improbable as it gets (via BigGator5). According to a report from London which has percolated through a few media outlets, the Iranian regime has put former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in connection with the street protests that still are still unfolding in Iran. The Hassan Rouhani government allegedly detained him for “inciting violence,” otherwise known as dissent within the theocratic regime.
Really? Er …
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reportedly arrested for “inciting violence” as the protests against the Tehran government and skyrocketing food prices began.
Ahmadinejad was busted for comments he made during a Dec. 28 protest in the western Iranian city of Bushehr, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper reported.
Ahmadinejad, whom Iranian officials will seek to keep under house arrest with the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was critical of the regime and President Hassan Rouhani.
“Some of the current leaders live detached from the problems and concerns of the people, and do not know anything about the reality of society, ” Ahmadinejad said, according to the report.
So far, only the one media outlet in London has reported on this directly. The New York Post and others are basing their articles on the one source. On its face, the statement seems to be at cross purposes for Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which is an independent outlet owned and operated by Palestinian activists. Given Iran’s patronage and patronization of the Palestinian cause, this newspaper might be less inclined to report a split among the ruling elites in Iran such as this suggests, although given the complicated relationships in the Middle East it might be less surprising than one would normally think.
However, it seems very unlikely that this happened as reported. If Ahmadinejad was critical of Rouhani, it would have been from sympathy with the mullahs, not with the protestors. Ahmadinejad was the target of the 2009 Green Revolution protests after his rigged re-election and has never been a leader in popular dissent. (Neither has Rouhani, for that matter, a point that continues to escape the Western media outlets determined to describe him as a “moderate” and “reformer.”) If Rouhani really did arrest him, the mullahs would likely set him loose immediately.
And how likely would Ahmadinejad to take a populist turn at this point? It’s possible, but let’s not forget that Ahmadinejad finally ran afoul of his own ultra-hardline patrons over corruption and cronyism allegations. He tried to jump into the 2017 presidential elections, but the mullahs had had enough of Ahmadinejad at that point — not because he was a “reformer,” but likely because he had caused them too much embarrassment. He then backed Hamid Baghaei, a former intelligence officer and one of Ahmadinejad’s vice presidents, who also got bounced out of the running by the mullahs.
It would be nice to see Ahmadinejad locked up under any circumstances, but you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be in support of the people in the streets. They’re the most likely to put him up against a wall if the mullahs fall, although Ahmadinejad would have to wait his turn.
Meanwhile, Rouhani wants to use the protests to avoid the same fate:
Protests that shook Iran were not just sparked by the economy, President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday, remarks suggesting the demonstrators were seeking to send a message to powerful conservatives opposed to his plans to expand individual freedoms at home and promote detente abroad.
The pragmatic cleric, who defeated anti-Western hardliners to win re-election last year, also called for the lifting of curbs on social media used by anti-government protesters in the most sustained challenge to hardline authorities since 2009.
“It would be a misrepresentation (of events) and also an insult to Iranian people to say they only had economic demands,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency. “People had economic, political and social demands.”
Let’s start by reminding everyone that Rouhani is fully part of the same hard-line system. He’s only president because Ali Khameini allowed his name to be put on a ballot. Rouhani is a creature of the mullahcracy; he’s only negotiating the amount of bread and circuses allowed for the peasants. In that context, Rouhani is trying to co-opt the protests and frustration by keeping it within the oppressive theocracy that holds all the power and authority in Iran, rather than allow it to completely break free and present an existential threat to the mullahcracy. The mullahs certainly understand that much, which is why Rouhani is allowed to say it.
And if Rouhani can say that, then Ahmadinejad’s reputed comments are small potatoes. Don’t bet on any split among the ruling elite, at least none of significance to liberty and human rights in Iran.