By Ramin Jalali
The West, led by the United States, had many hopes in its nuclear deal sealed with Iran. One particular source of optimism was the deal boosting and empowering “moderates” inside the regime. Therefore, those cheerleading the agreement are now proclaiming these twin elections as a significant victory for the camp of “moderates” and “reformists” in Iran. Of course, that actually depends on one’s definition of the word “moderate”.
Up for grabs in the February 26th sham elections were seats in two houses: the somewhat ceremonial parliament, and the Assembly of Experts, the council with a mandate to select the next supreme leader in Iran, should that post become vacant. Similar to every single previous “election” held in Iran by the ruling mullahs, the entire process was very carefully managed and orchestrated from day one. Iranians were called upon to vote for candidates vetted for their ideological beliefs. The body in charge of blessing or disqualifying the nearly 13,000 candidates who registered for the two bodies was the “Guardian Council”, backed by numerous security agencies loyal to the hard-liners.
The “Guardians” wasted no time in sacking 6,000, meaning nearly half of the initial candidates who signed up for the parliament alone. The scene was even worse for the Assembly of Experts. Less than a quarter, 161 of 801 candidates to be exact, passed through the vigorous screening process. The majority of those ordered to pack their bags and sent home belonged to the so called “reformists” and “moderate” factions.
A Rushed Approach
Some western media are mistaken by rushing to conclusions of analyzing the end results as an “embarrassing defeat” for the hardliners. These reports have went as far as saying in these polls the so-called moderates were able to pull off the “best nationwide electoral showing in more than a decade”, as explained by the Associated Press.
Here is a closer look at the “moderates”
The 2.5 years of Rouhani’s presidency is also marked by at least 2300 executions and stepped up massacre of the people of Syria.
Take Mostafa Kavakebian for example. Results he will be entering the parliament as a representative from Tehran. However, his remarks made in a speech back in 2008 are quite interesting: “The people who currently reside in Israel aren’t humans, and this region is comprised of a group of soldiers and occupiers who openly wage war on the people.”
Kazem Jalali is another “moderate” projected to have gained a seat. He is known to previously serve as the spokesman for the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee. Back in 2011 Jalali said his committee demanded “the harshest of all punishment” – a reference to the death penalty – for those opposing and raising their voice over the results of the controversial 2009 presidential elections that provoked millions to pour into the streets.
And It Gets Worse
Regarding the new lineup of the Assembly of Experts, many of the “moderates” forecasted to enter this council will also raise eyebrows.
The regime’s former president Rafsanjani and his cabinet members are pursued by the German, Swiss and Argentine judiciaries for their terrorist crimes in foreign countries.
The list of winning “moderates” include Mohammad Reyshahri, a former Minister of Intelligence known for his role in organizing the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, members of Iran main opposition, People Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI also known as MEK); another intelligence minister is Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, notorious for his direct role famous “chain murders” of the late 1990s; and Yousef Tabatabainejad, a stark anti-women’s rights advocate (as if women enjoy too many rights and freedom in Iran).
Back to the Drawing Board
The facts on the ground are that Khamenei who relies on the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), will not abandon power. He as the supreme leader still remain firmly in control of the judiciary, the security forces and much of the economy controlled by the IRGC.
Those who made it into parliament under the banner of “reforms” seem mostly to be cautious politicians, whom will quickly face division amongst themselves. Social change, promised by Rouhani back in 2013, is also a very sensitive subject and such efforts seem likely to meet continuing and ever-growing resistance by hard-liners. Even those who did vote in Iran’s twin elections are keeping a lid on their expectations. The political reality in Iran is that the ruling brass, backed by the Revolutionary Guards and advocate the most confrontational politics, remain firmly in control. Those who expect major political, social or economic change within Iran will be proven wrong. Any change in the regime would lead to its general weakness and entirely paralyze it, ending up in the regime’s ultimate overthrow.
Follow Ramin Jalali at @raminjalali25