Iran, December 14, 2019—One of the consequences of nationwide protests that shook Iran in November and December is the intensification of infighting among regime officials. In many cases, Iranian authorities are trying to evade the consequences of the uprisings—especially the looming backlash over the regime’s brutal crackdown on protests—by laying the blame on others and claiming to be uninvolved in the events.
The intensifying inner conflicts of the regime were clearly evident in remarks by Ali Movahedi Kermani, the representative of supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who mocked and criticized regime president Hassan Rouhani in his Friday prayer sermons in Tehran.
In his remarks, Movahedi Kermani blamed Rouhani for the sudden increase of the price of gasoline and the uprisings that ensued. “The incidents that happened were because of the wrong management, which resulted in many dying, many becoming injured, many parts of the country being destroyed. Why were you not wary? The government of ‘prudence’ had no prudence to prevent this kind of incident,” Movahedi Kermani said, criticizing Rouhani’s government.
According to information obtained by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), during the protests, Iranian security forces killed more than 1,000 protesters and injured 4,000 others. More than 12,000 protesters were arrested.
Movahedi Kermani also mocked Rouhani’s claim that he had learned about the gas price hike at the same time as other people.
Friday prayer leaders directly reflect the views of Khamenei, which only indicates Movahedi Kermani’s remarks were part of the supreme leader’s broader plans to lessen his role in the killing of thousands of innocents.
In recent days, MPs from Khamenei’s faction have been vitriolically attacking Rouhani and his government.
Ironically, both the gas price hike and the crackdown on the nationwide protests were implemented in full coordination with both Khamenei and Rouhani, as well as the heads of the judiciary and parliament.
The significance of intensifying disputes
Even before the November uprisings, the regime’s factions were in tight dispute over the approaching parliamentary elections. But the nationwide protests have pushed the regime into a new phase. The regime’s officials are comparing the protests to operations Karbala 4 and Eternal Light. Eternal Light was a great offensive operation of the MEK against the reigme in 1988, which brought the regime on the verge of collapse. The Karbala 4 operation was a milestone in the Iranian regime’s eight-year war against Iraq, a huge failure that set the stage for a series of setbacks for the mullahs’ warmongering apparatus.
Other officials have compared the protests to atomic bombs and the world war, and yet others have likened the regime’s survival to “a miracle.”
The remarks and behavior of regime officials show that the uprisings have dealt a heavy blow to the highest echelons of power in the regime, namely the supreme leader himself. Khamenei is in his most vulnerable position and is in dire need of a way out of his current dilemma.
Attacks on Rouhani are usually accompanies by praises for Khamenei, a futile effort to wash the bloody hands of the person who directly ordered the slaughtering of Iranian youth.
In tandem with attacking Rouhani, Khamenei is putting up a ridiculous display of pretending to care for the families of the victims of the regime’s security forces. On December 4, Khamenei ordered to consider “civilians who, under legal frameworks, did not have any role in protests and riots" as "martyrs." The supreme leader also stipulated that “the families of victims who lost their lives in any way during the protests be given restitution for the loss of their loved ones.”
A few days, later, Khamenei sent Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, to visit the families of the victims. During his visit, Shamkhani claimed that the killings were done by the protesters themselves.
The contradictory and irrational behavior of regime officials are happening while parliamentary elections are closing in. The regime historically tries to create a calm situation before elections, but this time around, the mullahs are still reeling in the aftermath of the protests and are trying hard to keep order among their ranks.
Khamenei’s situation can only be compared to that of a person sinking in a swamp. The more he thrashes and tries to free himself of the mess, the more he sinks in.