During the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran reached a stage of the so-called “bottleneck”. The country suffered a significant economic decline. Local currency lost more than 75% of its value against hard currencies, and Unemployment and inflation reached unprecedented rates. On the political level, Ahmadinejad took over after a period of reforms led by Mohammad Khatami. Khatami’s era was characterized by openness to the regional countries and to the world. It also marked an era of dedication to improve Iran’s image on the international level. However, after the succession of Ahmadinejad to the presidency, supported by Khamenei, he adopted a new direction and ignored his precedent’s policies. He tended to clashes through fiery statements and rhetoric speeches locally and abroad, which negatively influenced the achievements of his precedent. Ahmadinejad’s era also witnessed a wide crackdown to the Iranian people. The most prominent example was the suppression of demonstrations and protests in Iran 2009 after the declaration of Nejad’s winning of a second term.
It is well-known that the suppression orders were not given by Ahmadinejad personally. They came from the top of the pyramid, Ali Khamenei, who deployed the Revolutionary Guards down to streets to suppress protesters, crush supporters of the “Green Movement”, and put its leaders under house arrest. Nevertheless, there were two reasons why those events were associated with Ahmadinejad’s name. The first one is that he succeeded to the presidency for a second term through fraud and counterfeit in the elections against “Reformers”, and secondly, the oppression took place during his reign and his government was considered responsible for those events.
Based on that, Republic of Supreme Leader needed a big change. The political and economic realities required a “moderate” administration with leadership characteristics and specific personal features. This new tendency was compatible with the desires of the Iranian street, which was eager to change, even if in a minor degree; therefore, Hassan Rouhani was elected president. He committed himself to the Supreme Leader to take Iran out of its political isolation. He also adopted the “key” slogan for his campaign, and made many pledges at the internal and external levels. There is no doubt that Rouhani succeeded in a major part of his job, particularly, the nuclear agreement with (5 +1) group, at which, Iran received a bunch of its frozen funds abroad, including India, and more importantly, lifting of sanctions imposed on Tehran by the Security Council. However, it seems that Khamenei believes that what has been achieved is sufficient and that Rouhani and the moderate stream have accomplished their interim roles to the fullest. Consequently, the Supreme Leader does not have the desire for this stream to continue in office.
The past few months witnessed direct and indirect media crossfire between Khamenei and Rouhani, mainly about foreign policy and relationship with America and the West. In addition to that, some internal files like the Revolutionary Guards role in the political and economic aspects, and the importance of teaching foreign languages, especially English in the Iranian schools have come to the forefront of the Iranian political views. Although the latter concern seems marginal, it reflects the dispute between the top of pyramid and the President. This perhaps reminds us with the nature of the relationship between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad during the period 2010 – 2013, which witnessed tension and rumors of Ahmadinejad’s impeachment from office.
On the other hand, the assignment of Ahmad Jannati, a fundamentalist and militant, and a close friend of Khamenei, head of Assembly of Experts is an indication of curbing the “moderate” stream. Few days later Ali Larijani was re-elected head of Iran’s Shura Council over his moderate competitor Mohammad Reza Aref, who withdrew for Rouhani in the last presidential elections; therefore, it was expected that he would receive considerable support from the President. Meanwhile; Larijani was supported by the fundamentalist stream and references of Qum, and by Qassem Soleimani, who attended a meeting held by Larijani one day before electing the Speaker of Parliament. Soleimani delivered a speech in which he praised Larijani, which conveys a political message about the inclination of the Jurist Leader.
Reformers celebration of winning an unprecedented number of the Iranian Shura Council seats, and the support of many Western countries because of the significant change they had noticed in the political structure of Iran have led Khamenei to turn the tables on everyone else, emphasizing the consistency of the militant regime and confining it to his loyal figures only.
The big question remains: Will Rouhani be able to restore Khamenei‘s confidence and take office for another term like all other former presidents, or it has already been determined by Khamenei to support Larijani, who belongs to a well-known political family and is supported by the ruling class in Tehran, for the presidency?
The answer to this question will come about during the months to come by Khamenei, influenced by the tendencies of the next US president.
Translated Article: Alwatan Newspaper