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Iran... the Road to Military Rule

Iran... the Road to Military Rule

Saturday, 14 April, 2018 - 11:30
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Credit: Reuters
Tehran: Faraz Safaei
Electing a military official for presidency in Iran has turned into a fundamental debate among national political circles. The discussion has headlined many important newspapers over the past few days.

Perhaps the current situation has made the issue of the presidency going to an army figure become more important and expected than ever before. The economic situation in the country is not only about to collapse, but each of the culture, society, family and security faculties of the country have not been excluded from calamity.

Iran is on the brink of a complete and utter collapse. At least such an impression is sharply expanding at the level of the political elite. A clear example is seen in statements made by moderate parties.

Iranian conservative pundit and activist Hossein Allahkaram was the first to open up the doors for debate a few days ago on the “need” for a military strategist filling up the post of Iranian president.

Allahkaram founded the ultra-conservative Ansar-e-Hezbollah movement in Iran in the early 1990s.

He launched the organization after returning from fighting in the Iran-Iraq war.

The movement is notorious for leading pressure groups that targeted self-declared moderate presidents in Iran, such as former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former President Mohammad Khatami.

Ansar-e-Hezbollah soon emerged as one of the most powerful conservative lobbying tools.

After disappearing from the limelight for a while, Allahkaram returned to the forefront last week, lambasting current policies and issuing alarming statements.

“Iranians believe that they have to make a strategic choice in the military heading the government, otherwise the result will only be in nation-wide collapse," Allahkaram said.

Although Allahkaram is not a well-known figure in Iranian politics, he is a specimen testing for the ideology yielded by Iranian ultra-hardliners close to Revolutionary Guard.

By and by, public platforms and institutions, like Iran’s Islamic Azad University are slowly turning into a stronghold for conservatives. Once an unbiased center, the university’s board now is headed by Ali Akbar Velayati, who serves as top adviser on international policy for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei leads a shadow government against current President Hassan Rouhani and remains in control of most strings of power in the country.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a branch of Iran's Armed Forces founded after 1979 Revolution, answers exclusively to orders from the Supreme Leader.

The “collapse – militarization” cause-effect argument is fueled largely by conservatives who seek further control over government institutions. From their point of view, Iran is on the verge of collapse, and there is no other way to escape this collapse than resorting to the military establishment to distance the country from impending doom.

However, the concept of “militarization” is not new to the country. Iranians strongly remember a century-ago model of Iran that had both supporters and oppressive opponents mimicking today’s regime.

Reza Shah, the Persian monarch who founded the Pahlavi system, at the onset of the 20th century extended his power in a period of time that historical books recall as the time Iran was on the verge of collapse.

Of course, a Republican president with a military background is not limited to the Reza Shah Pahlavi model.

Understanding that Rouhani heads Iran today after previously serving as air defense commander, it is obvious that conservatives seek a military president who is fresh out from the establishment and is overwhelmingly conservative.

Army officials aren’t even qualified in the eyes of conservatives, as they are looking for Iran’s next president among the ranks of Revolutionary Guard Generals.

Consequently, Revolutionary Guard decision-makers will not refuse to be named as candidates for the next round of presidential elections.

But perhaps the issue is not a matter of collapse, at least it is not the main cause of concern among conservatives, especially the Revolutionary Guard.

Observers shed the light in the other direction, proposing the fact that this feared disarray can be stemming from Supreme Leader Khamenei not only being sick, but also old.

Everyone recognizes that he will not be alive for long. With a ruler with the breadth of power as big as Khamenei’s dying, Iran will definitely be witnessing a vicious crisis and competition for the title.

Such a dispute can easily raze Iran to the ground. The Revolutionary Guard, which has shown over the years that it is using Iran as a bastion, is ironically propping itself for the crisis.

But some still consider the escalation of internal strife to be exaggerated, saying that this debate, like others, will be ruled over by the upper hand and exit public circles at the end. Hot topics like this have long been brought into light, to soon be muzzled by the system—such as the debate on changing the political system from a presidential republic system to rule with a Prime Minister as the highest political authority acting under the Supreme Leader.

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