Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Next for Iran?

TEHRAN, IRAN - JUNE 16: People attend a state...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

As the Guardian Council begins its review of 646 electoral complaints, Mousavi supporters are gathering while arrests are accelerating, including former government officials and journalists. The current government is losing its credibility in a hurry. Even Medvedev avoided a scheduled meeting with Ahmadinejad, reducing it to a handshake.

President Ahmadinejad is not short of enemies. Powerful enemies. One of those enemies is also a one of the defeated candidates for president, Mohsen Rezaie, who happens to be a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander. With no chance of winning anyway, his opposition strips away an important element of strength of Ahmadinejad.

Rezaie is also secretary of the Expediency Council. The Council handles disputes and liaison between the office of president and parliament (Majlis). It also oversees all three branches of government and directs strategic policy planning for Iran. At the head of the Council sits Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the most powerful clerics in the Islamic Republic for over 20 years. He, unlike, Khamenei, has not uttered a single word since the election and is not a big fan of Ahmadinejad. The pressure on Khamenei is huge to take a stand against Ahmadinejad - perhaps even to the extent of his own removal.

The last question is whether the government will roll out the tanks. It is already clear that these demonstrations have shaken the Islamic Republic and if not a game changer, have redrawn its social and political structure. If Ahmadinejad and his supporters decide on a Tiananmin moment, Iran's putative attempt at a leadership role in the region will be flushed, hardliners in Israel will be strengthened and its economy will begin to circle the drain.

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