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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

After Ahmadinejad, it may get worse for Iran

Meet Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's successor as Mayor of Tehran, and possibly also his successor as President of Iran. According to Sabina Amidi, who has spent a lot of time in Iran, Ghalibaf may be even worse than his predecessor.
“The military section is becoming increasingly more powerful, I’m afraid,” said a mullah who leads Friday prayer at a local mosque in northern Tehran, referring to the IRGC and other branches of the security apparatus. “In the past three years, their influence has become much stronger than that of the clergy and religious leaders. Their voice is heard more. What the Revolutionary Guard are forgetting is that we created them to protect the Islamic system of the clerical government, not the other way around.

This cleric told me he was certain Ghalibaf — a military commander at a very young age during the Iran-Iraq war who later held a senior position in the IRGC, and who stepped down as Iranian police chief when he briefly sought the presidency in 2005 — would succeed Ahmadinejad, and that he feared for the consequences. “I can say with confidence that the next president will be Mr. Ghalibaf. I just hope this country doesn’t forget our Islamic principles in the years to come.

Many of my sources said that, were there to be a new upsurge in public protests, this would play into the hands of the IRGC, which is braced and ready to quash any demonstrations and widen its authority. The IRGC leaders take the view that it was they who, in 2009, saved the regime from the greatest challenge it had faced since the revolution, the sources said. The price they demand in return is greater influence over domestic policy, foreign policy, and the economy.

If there are new protests, the sources said, the IRGC will react, and its power will grow, with the Iranian government becoming increasingly militarized. The nomination and possible election of Ghalibaf would emblemize this, they said.


Concern over such a trend, some said, is breeding if not alliances, then at least a degree of quiet cooperation between supporters of relative hardliners like Ahmadinejad and the reformists. They have a common opponent: The IRGC. Even hardliners like Ahmadinejad may feel their influence slowly dimming as military factions take the reins, my sources said.

The problem is that an IRGC-favored candidate, Ghalibaf, is now set to seek the presidency. And from what I can tell from my trips to Iran over the past three years, the demonstrators who protested Ahmadinejad’s election three years ago may be too intimidated to dare raise their voices against his IRGC-backed would-be successor.
And people still believe that Iranians will rally around the flag in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran?

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