If Elections Were Annulled, the Regime Would Have Collapsed


Bahram Rafiee

While numerous reports were published last year regarding the discontent and criticism by senior Shiite clerics of ayatollah Khamenei’s decisions on the 2009 presidential elections, and its bloody aftermath through which protestors were brutally suppressed, and the official media denied these events and issues, the last two weeks have witnessed a confirmation of those events by some official sources. The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) had earlier said that differences and a chasm between the supreme leader and senior clerics were a key threat to the survival of the Islamic republic.

Speaking at a seminar last week titled “The Future of the Islamic Republic and a Look at the Political Issues of the Country” (Ayande Engelab Islami va Tahlil Masael Siasi Keshvar), cleric Abdol-Hossein Khosropanah, who had been previously appointed by ayatollah Khamenei as the head of the Vali Faghih project at universities across Iran and who is currently active in the Islamic Culture and Thought Institute (Pajooheshgahe Farhang va Andishe Islami), confirmed the “strong protests” that some senior clerics had raised of ayatollah Khamenei regarding last year’s events and said, “If the leader had allowed the elections to be annulled, the regime would have definitely collapsed.”

Khosropanah made these remarks at the Imam Khomeini institute managed by extremist cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. “As those events were in progress [i.e., the massive protests over the results of the presidential elections last year], the leader was informed that a number of influential clerics who had reservations about certain issues wanted to meet him. Mr. Khamenei agreed to meet them. The clerics spoke for two hours and 45 minutes – and some insultingly – while the leader listened to them calmly. Then he spoke and provided his reasoning, and many accepted it,” he said.

Just last week during the Friday prayer sermon the chairman of the Guardian Council ayatollah Ahmad Janati expressly and categorically denied the existence of any differences between senior clerics and ayatollah Khamenei. “They say that the leader has lost his position and that people are no longer interested in the regime and that even theology centers are not displaying as much interest in the regime and leader as they used to. It was said that senior clerics have differences with the leader and are not optimistic. They said these things and believed them. Such remarks created disillusionment among some and foreigners took advantage of them. But the recent trip [of ayatollah Khamenei to Qom] dispelled all of these issues,” Khosropanah said.

In his talk he also mentioned that some people questioned ayatollah Khamenei’s religious credentials and defended the leader saying that he was a mujtahid and that he had completed his advanced religious studies prior to the 1979 revolution, and that ayatollah Khomeini himself had on two occasions confirmed his qualifications.

Khosropanah who used to be a regular writer at the Sobh and Kayhan newspapers went even further and said words to the effect that Khamenei was even superior to ayatollah Khomeini and quoted an unnamed cleric for his argument.

His remarks contrast with the views of senior ayatollah Montazeri who in his memoirs wrote that ayatollah Khamenei’s ascent to the position of leadership and source of emulation was the result of pressures exerted by security forces and those in the Revolutionary Guards on other senior clerics. Montazeri wrote that he and others were not in favor of the elevation of Khamenei to the higher religious and political posts, but could not do anything and so simply left those meetings where such discussions were held. In addition to that, speaking at an event on November 14, 1997, ayatollah Montazeri narrated an exchange between himself and ayatollah Momen regarding the basis for the elevation of ayatollah Khamenei’s status, and the latter basically said that they agreed to the change because of ayatollah Khomeini’s wishes, and not Khamenei’s credentials.

When ayatollah Khamenei was visiting Qom earlier this month, Khosropanah delivered a speech in the former’s presence in which he called for fundamental changes at the theological seminaries. In his remarks at the seminar last week, he also touched on the subject of the cool welcome afforded to ayatollah Khamenei in Qom and said that while ayatollah Vahid Khorasani did not come to meet the leader in Qom, he did send his son. He also said that ayatollah Khorasani believed that the Sunnis were gathering too much influence in the country, something that he did not want to raise with Khamenei because of protocol and out of respect. “It is not true that ayatollah Khorasani opposes the regime. In fact he says that supporting it is a duty,” Khosropanah added.

Khosropanah also said that ayatollah Khorasani’s views of velayat faghih (rule of clerics) were similar to those of senior ayatollah Khoi. But his remarks contradict the commonly known view that ayatollah Khoi in fact had made it very clear that he did not approve of the rule of clerics and had said that the principle lacked religious tradition and religious law.

In his talk, this representative of the supreme leader at universities across Iran also defended ayatollah Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, who has come under some criticism in the media for being affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij paramilitary force, and his interference in political events particularly during and following the 2009 presidential elections. Ayatollah Karoubi had expressly said in public that there were news reports that Mojtaba Khamenei had been politically active in support of his father and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Khosropanah further said that when last year’s presidential candidates protested the announced results of the elections, ayatollah Khamenei called their representatives and asked them what their grievances were. They told him that he had sided with a specific candidate, which he refuted, defending what he had said that was constituted to be support for a candidate, whereas he had in fact announced the criteria for the right president. Khosropanah said that ayatollah Khamenei had come to the conclusion that a velvet revolution was on its way in Iran even before the security forces had said so. Khosropanah’s reference is to a speech that ayatollah Khamenei had made during a trip to Kurdistan before the June 2009 election where he had called for public support of the current president, i.e., Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was also running for reelection.

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