Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reprimanding Jame-e Rohaniyat

Hossein Bastani, Rooz Online:
The meeting that Jame Rohaniyate Mobarez [Association of Combatant Clergy] - the most important political organization of the conservative clerics in Iran - had with ayatollah Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic regime, led to an important event that was not picked up by the press. During the meeting, ayatollah Khamenei criticized the members of the Association in an unprecedented manner and scolded them for not supporting the president. According to news reports, the criticism was so unexpected by the members of the Association that some of them expressed their dissatisfaction with the meeting just as they were leaving the assembly.

Following this meeting, the minister of the interior of Ahmadinejad’s cabinet made a trip to Qom and met the most important ideological cleric grouping there, i.e. Jame Modaresin Hoze Elmie Qom (Qom Seminary Teachers Association) and invited them to be more supportive of the executive branch. But during that meeting members of the Teachers Association criticized the government’s unplanned policies and behavior, leading to strong arguments during the meeting.

In addition to these two events, Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri who is a senior member of the conservative Combatant Clergy and was their presidential candidate almost 9 years ago, publicly criticized the president and called his plans and ideas in running the country as “illusionary. This led to counter-attacks by supporters of the president and Aref news website even made accusations about Nouri’s wealth.

These criticisms are indicative of the diminishing role of the traditional clerics in Islamic regime. READ MORE

This process began with the end of the last presidential elections last year which brought in the new president through the support of the military. This process and struggle intensified when about two months ago Khamenei threw in his support for the hardline president and called on others to absolutely support him as well. It appears that the intensification of this struggle lies in the developments of Iran’s nuclear issue. So it appears that the nuclear issue has not only drastically changed Iran’s relations with the world, but has even imposed fundamental changes internally.

Senior Iranian leaders seem to have concluded that only the military-security circles close to the president have the capability to save the Islamic regime. These circles believe in creating terror as deterrence vis-à-vis the threats they perceive against the regime, even at a time when its conservative diplomats are scheduled to talk to the US, and thus promote joining the nuclear club.

In this atmosphere, the non-military-security political institutions of the conservative camp lose their impact at the expense of the former, and include even the conservative clerics.

While these new developments may not lead to immediate crises, but the growing energy caused displeasure of the conservative camp will be unleashed when the regime may be forced to make serious concessions and turn-abouts in its nuclear policy. At that point, the regime will need to create some kind of consensus among its leading factions, particularly among the conservatists. But the rapidly widening gap among them makes the possibility of such a unity very distant. This signals the inevitability of the crisis that may follow the changes that could come regarding the nuclear issue.

Hossein Bastani is the former Secretary General of the Association of Iranian Journalists who now lives in exile.