Iranian-GCC relations Without Jurist Leadership

ByMoataz Salamah

Talking about the future of the Iranian-GCC relations without the Jurist Leadership regime or Collective Leadership of Jurist Leader’s institution is just an extensive hypothetical and outlook speaking large. The Jurist Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still on top of the power and guidance of the Iranian state. Thinking about the collective of leadership is a premature issue and may not be fulfilled in the near future, given the structure of the state and the penetration of the conservatives in the vital joints and institutions. This leadership, which lurk to any modulator direction and screening the institutions in a matter preventing it from change, or left it to the result of an automatic electoral sort.
However, talking about the Jurist Leader’s future is one of the conversations that hesitated in recent times, especially after the old posing of the former President Hashemi Rafsanjani concerning to bring a collective leadership of the Islamic Republic if there is a vacancy in the Leader position. When wondered about the future of the Jurist Leadership saying, “If Ayatollah Khamenei died tomorrow is there anyone has the revolutionary background and deduction to become his successor?” This posing was not new at all; Hashemi put it forward in 1979 during the writing of the constitution of the Islamic Republic.
This paper addresses the expected possibilities and scenarios for the Iranian-GCC relations; i.e., if we assume that success will take place that calls for the collective leadership in the post of Jurist Leadership, questions raise ”What are the Iranian policy trends taking place under the collective leadership? What are forms and images of change and continuity of it? Do these trends positively or negatively effect on the relations of the Arab Gulf states and Iran? Answering these questions requires a knowledge of the status of the individual Jurist Leadership, This knowledge may account for issues like; how it differs from the collective Leadership, as well as the role of the Jurist Leadership in the regime, and which of these roles has to do with foreign policy and relations with the Gulf States?
First: Validities of the Jurist Leadership:
Iranian Constitution provide the Jurist Leader (Supreme Leader) large authorities over all state institutions, there are about 11 validities and functions clarified by Article 111 of the Constitution for him.
These validities include: (1) Setting general policies, (2) supervise the conducts of public policies, (3) ordering a general referendum, (4) general command of armed forces, (5) declaration of war and peace and general alarm, (6) inaugurate, isolate, accept, and resignation of: scholars of Guardian Council of the constitution, the highest judicial authority, the head of radio and television corporation, chief of Staff of the joint command, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and the senior leaders of the armed forces and internal security forces, (7) resolve differences and regulate relations between the three authorities, (8) resolving the problems that cannot be solved by conventional means, (9) Signing the decree of formalizing the president after being elected by the people, (10) isolate the president .., (11) pardon or mitigation of convicts’ sanctions within the framework of Islamic criteria.
These validities exceed any other political regime, which are hard to be perform on any solo individual and difficult to be mastered by a cleric. Khomeini himself realized that when he sent a letter to religious scholars before his death inviting them to ease the terms of the benchmark in the constitution of selecting the new Supreme Leader, as to “have an in political, economic and social insight”. Khomeini said this “is not exercised by the elderly and senior clerics who usually keep distant from the political scene.” Khomeini added that complexity of Jurist Leadership that integration occurred with the spiritual and religious status of the Revolution Leader between religious and political inauguration. There is an overlapping between what is religious and political which has ended with Holiness of the Jurist Leadership and has become absolute validities. Khomeini has made himself a deputy of the Absent Imam and has the absolute freedom of Imam Legitimacy to legitimate. Moreover, considered the Jurist Leadership as one that God gave to the Prophet Muhammad and the infallible Imams. Khomeini said, (Opposing to the Jurist Leader as to oppose the Imam and this is like to oppose on God, and opposing to God considered in the limits of polytheism) and that means to give full immunity to the Jurist Leadership.
Errors or misconceptions of Jurist Leadership does not confine to his inability of the right landing of the provisions on the ground because of his fixed ideological reading of reality. Khomeini’s practice ended by putting people and institutions under subordination of confidence of his divine inspiration of provisions. The state of revolution entered in enormous problems during the first ten years after it was hit by severe setbacks led by the collective delusion of Khomeini’s holiness and infallibility. Setback included errors in the right of the state, society, institutions and army, and the admission of defeat by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime.
The stage of Khomeini ended with holes in the Jurist Leadership got his prestige, holiness and religious place. Certainly that the state and society were not able to absorb the results of the war with Iraq, and that they were subjected to a tremendous amount of propaganda established on plot thought to accommodate the reality the good power defeat (Power that they represent) on the hands of the evil force represented by the State of the Baath.
In the era of Ali Khamenei, errors occurred in the Jurist Leadership, although he did not obtain what Khomeini had of holiness and spiritual stature. However, he retained semi absolute validities under the Constitution. Khamenei’s era witnessed a State entering into a conflict between the law and custom of interests, political, social, economic, and cultural needs. Therefore, he used the principle of interest to enable himself the absolute Leadership. This conduct Khamenei took place at the expense of nationalist and sectarian constants. Thus, Iran entered into a new turmoil where the requirements of State overshadowed the revolution and doctrine, and forced them to make many adjustments. Adjustments targeted the neighborhood or in conflict with the forces of international arrogance, and negotiated with the Great Satan. All of that were the features of new directions, which gave the priority to the reality over the ideology and idealism.
Second: Leadership Transitions Scenarios
Three images can make transition in the Leadership and the Jurist Leader position as follows:
Firstly, transformation can occur through natural peaceful mechanisms available within the regime and through its organs and in a constitutional manner. Therefore, during the coming period pressures will be increased to choose an alternative candidate to Ali Khamenei, whether in his presence, illness or departure. If this alternative or scenario put on the table as suggested by Rafsanjani, the possibilities to be accomplished are very weak. It is hard for the conservative institutions, where the Supreme Leader represents the top person of its political pyramid to voluntarily abdicate to a change that eliminates its head and subject its secrets, activities and budgets for auditing and censorship through a collective council. This proposal was toughly rejected by supporters of Khamenei who threatened Rafsanjani with house arrest; where he would meet the fate of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri (the successor to Khomeini, the founder of the Republic), which was isolated and died under house arrest.
It is likely that this scenario will not happen since it may lead the country to many conflicts besides conflicts triggered around faith or doctrinal principle; the scenario involves enormous conflicts of interests, though. In regard of the same scenario, it is also possible to imagine that conservative forces can adopt constitutional amendments that would reduce the validities of the Supreme Leader. Amendment can be done through constitutions’ validities aiming to reduce the burden. That is if you find the job as usual becomes no longer acceptable in accordance to the developments in Iran reality, especially if another Supreme Leader is less religious and political efficiency of each Khomeini and Khamenei has come. Then it did not end up in a proposed collective leadership, but being the powers will be distributed on another agencies and institutions, through a slight amendment on constitution. However, it does not seem that this possibility will occur in the short term.
Secondly, change in the Jurist Leadership regime comes through violent and non-peaceful change from the regime internal, not from the outside, so that matters remain governed by internal conflicts. That could be happened if President Rouhani was able to impose a process of real change and not constitutional in the new Supreme Leader validities because of the inability to comply with his policies. It would be happened if he felt completely powerless to apply his program through the threat by resorting to the popular option or to enter a public clash with him and to escalate his resistance procedures of Supreme Leader policy. That means that the two parties enter into a big clash and that the president aiming to resolve an issue needed to be resolved in Iran long time ago, which is that the elected government and president-elect handcuffed, while the unelected organs are controlling the decision, and it virtually constitutes the weaker loop in the political regime.
Thirdly, transformation only means the popular social scenario sets Iran to witness the events that Arab countries are witnessing in the recent years, and to be on a date with a new revolution. This is not completely ruled out for Obama administration, against the backdrop of Western policies that roll within societies until the inside complies, and starts to set off holes in it. In this context, it is not expected that the political transition process remains governed with disciplined decree route in the mind of the Iranian leadership, but matters could be out of control and the government cannot control the change track. This will end with the Islamic Republic after years to a state like Egypt during the revolution of January 25, where young people go out looking for changing, and the turbulence cycle will begin in Iran. Under this scenario, changes can be visualized in different levels. According to Iran’s experience with the Islamic Revolution, it may not end up completely with the abandon of revolution. However, a corrective revolution stands at a middle point between the preservation of the regime by virtue of the state power that will continue to have the capacity for political and social control, and the invitations to return to the stage of revolutionary purity.

Third: The Collective Leadership and the Iranian Policy
In light of the enormous transformations in the Iranian scene from the dialogue with the West, nuclear agreement, the need to openness with outside, and responding to societal transitions at home, thinking about switching to a collective leadership system is a logical sequence of the natural evolution of regime. After regime was intact behind specified ideology essentially to advocate the oppressed and confronting the Great Satan and export the revolution, most of these logos will interfere with the upcoming needs of the regime. This impelling the regime to compatible with the international law, and matching his behavior with the countries of the world and this is a period in which it will need to combine adherence to ideology and openness to the changing necessities. If the Jurist Leadership foundation established on the revolutionary and ideological slogans, the last period of the state of Khamenei witnessed enormous differences between slogans and reality. The institution associated with rigidity aiming to defend the revolutionary situation that cannot be maintained in the light of new variables.
In the context of the above, six potential effects can be observed in the event of the institutionalization of the position and collective leadership to be replaced with the Jurist Leadership, as follows:
1- The effect of removing holiness of position:
The collective leadership of the Jurist leadership has the affair to end symbolical and spiritual status of the leader. Moreover, it attempts to disperse this status making it in the human level without enclosing it with an aura of holiness as happened with Khomeini and Khamenei. In addition to, that the collective leadership aims to end the Jurist Leadership as an extension or alternative for the Absent Imam, while the position of Jurist Leader will gradually Transfer from a sacred religious shrine to a normal human, then the members will not gain the same current aura. It will be exposed to community discussion and wider criticism; especially the members of the leadership will differ on the country’s foreign policy management. Most likely the prestige and status of the Leadership Council will drop in determining the major directions of foreign policy, and linking the foreign policy with the religious aspect and prohibition or permissible. Decisions and foreign directions of the collective leadership will be subjected to the interests of Iran, not to the religious ideology. Then the spiritual influence of the Supreme Leadership will be dissipated, and the ideological and sectarian hostility toward the GCC countries will be reduced on the part of this institution.

2-The effect of multiple representations within the position:
Although it is difficult to imagine the control of Reformists or even represent them in the collective leadership of the Jurist if it approved, but most likely that the Institution will not be monopolist on Conservatives and Militants. Even if Reformists do not represent in the collective leadership, so this Leadership will mean a change in decision-making within the first institution that perfectly situated in the lap of Conservatives to be switched into a position where the decision-taking by Shura and not by individual choice. That would create a variety of opinions within the Leadership, which means the approach of decision in the top of the power pyramid from the interests of the state not the revolution. That is to say, distancing the decision of undergoing with the mood of doctrinal rush of a leader or commander believes that he is the first and last guard of the doctrine, which means reducing the tension in the regional surrounding. In the final analysis, it will make the Supreme Leadership Office a clash of ruling circles, such as the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Council, and will drop him from his holy status to the worldly shrine, which is accountable, and able to be controverted.

3- Deciphering of the regime and its tight circles:
Most likely, the collective leadership will decipher the rules and mechanisms of decision-making in the income, and relationships between agencies, in particular those under the control of the Jurist Leadership. There are a lot of security, military and political agencies parallel and subject to the Jurist Leadership under his authority and their activities are unknown. These agencies practiced policies and operations abroad, which only the Jurist Leader who knows about them. Collective leadership has the authority to shrink and reduce the role of these agencies and to able the regime’s grip on them; Leadership may trim the agencies nails and re-launch their roles for public discussion. Given it used to work with only one leader, they may not show the same degree of flexibility under the collective leadership, and that have a positive side and another negative. Collective leadership feeling of Jurist Leadership absence may make it tends to unilateral action, and then moves its policies into truce with the GCC countries for a an upcoming period, as the collective leadership will be less able and daring to adopt aggressive policies abroad.
4- Rehabilitation of the President position:
The collective leadership in the position of Jurist Leadership has the authority to rehabilitate for the presidency. Under the collective leadership solutions, the president’s position will be highlighted, which will be able to influence some members of the leadership. Then he will not be related to the Supreme Leadership as a relation of subordinate or minimal degree in the leadership ladder. Most likely that the Jurist Leadership Status will shrink for the interest of the President position where his effective role in policymaking and implementation will be shown. The result of that conduct would re-adjust the compass of Iran toward the interests of the state, not the revolution and setting the compass of the state toward the national interests. It will add to the presidential office, especially the aura of the Jurist Leader, which will dissipate with the collective leadership solutions. The movement of the group will not be as smoothness as the individual movement in light of the individual Leadership. This means linking Iranian politics over the interests of the state, not the interests of ideology, and their slowly get rid of Conservatives control and rigid visions. Following this decline in the parallel roles of security and military agencies will occur, which point to the threat of the Revolutionary Guards activities and policies toward the GCC Countries.
5- Creating pressures on GCC Countries:
the collective leadership to end with pragmatic policies at the top of the pyramid of power in a manner that devote consistency in the Iranian decision unity in agreement with the President than the previous consensus between the Jurist Leader, Conservatives, and Radical Institutions. That may bring more convergence with the West in light of the economic openness desire, which is consistent with the nature of change in the needs of Iranian society over the past years, and the desire to overcome its internal problems. Collective mechanism may be ended with a situation that similar to the Supreme Political Office Body to be a mechanism for decision-making that work on reinforcing a moderate pragmatic approach. If this happened, it may help to improve the relations with the GCC Countries if the approach included the regional neighbors, and abandoned the concepts of sectarian leadership on the Shia in the region, which led to the destruction of Iranian-GCC relations over the past years. The other side of this shift is that the collective leadership tends to progress in Iranian-West relations by more militancy in its relations with the GCC Countries.
6- Dismantle the system and the Conservative structures:
In general, Supreme Leader is not just the Jurist Leader himself; he has the authority to move in light of an integrated network of ideas, structures and institutions. The change in the nature and form of the position will give him power to a change in the overall political and religious structure that he works under its roof. This suggests that in the next period, the Supreme Leader will tend to think about the future and the status of institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Expediency Council, the Assembly of experts, and the Guardian Council. It is unlikely that the start of the western openness in Iran, taking place due to the Iranian need for investment and rectifying the past thirty years will lead to any change in the Jurist Leadership; nor will it make change in the overall institutions associated with relationships and interests’ circles with him. If that happened, it may means that the fall of the Iranian violent, sectarian and interventionist role in the GCC Affairs. Moreover, it may mean the completely undermined the slogans of exporting the revolution and the other subversive ideologies, which will be reflected positively on the political stability in the Arab Gulf states.

Moataz Salamah
Moataz Salamah
Head of Gulf program at Al-Ahram Centre