Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Nov. 7, 2018 - After the Iranian regime’s terrorist plot to assassinate an opponent on Danish soil was foiled, Denmark, Scandinavian countries and other European states were swift to strongly condemn the attack.
Since then, the Iranian regime is doing its best to come up with excuses and conspiracy theories to put the blame on anyone but itself. The list of accused parties ranges from the Great Satan (Iran’s term for the U.S.) and the "Zionist government" in Israel and the PMOI (Iran’s main opposition group)—who according to the Iranian regime are trying to disrupt Tehran’s relationship with Europe—to the rogue elements in the Iranian government itself.
The rogue element scenario, which has been played by the Iranian regime many times since the mullahs’ ascendance to power, is the regime’s last resort. This scenario is typically played when the authorities try to lift the responsibility from high-ranking Iranian officials and the regime’s leadership.
Iranian media report that during a phone call with his Danish counterpart, Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, denied what he called baseless claims about a terrorist plot in Denmark and announced Iran’s willingness to cooperate with Denmark’s security officials to shed light on different aspects of what he called a conspiracy.
On November 3, state-run Entekhab website, close to the so called moderates wrote: “Zarif also mentioned the Zionistic regime’s obvious attempts to damage the Iran-Europe relationship and to overturn Europe’s initiatives to rescue the JCPOA. Zarif also announced our country’s willingness to cooperate with Denmark in order to shed light on the different aspects of this conspiracy and reveal the truth.”
Blaming the Denmark scandal on the enemies of the state has been the prevalent theme of the Iranian regime propaganda, especially by elements and factions close to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
On November 2, Alireza Arafi, a Friday prayer Imam of Qom, said: “Our country is amid a storm of disaster and we are facing many animosities… these recent nit-pickings and accusations in Denmark are obviously for slurring over the disasters that are occurring in Yemen and Turkey.”
But since Denmark apparently has hard facts and evidence about the Iranian regime’s terrorist plot, the foreign enemy narrative seems hardly convincing enough for the European countries to believe, even though some of them may like to do so. Therefore, the Iranian regime is simultaneously pushing another scenario.
On October 31, IRNA news agency quoted Mahmoud Vaezi, Rouhani’s chief of staff, as saying: “Yesterday, the presidency has immediately ordered a thorough investigation. What appears in media is not acceptable. On the eve of November 4 and the start of the claimed sanctions, some parties are seeking to change the climate. The Iranian-European relationship and the JCPOA negotiations are going on very well and some parties are seeking to disrupt these relationships.”
Vaezi’s tone and how he mentioned “some parties” without blaming foreign enemies, terrorist groups, the Great Satan, etc. can imply some parties inside the Iranian government.
Iran newspaper, close to Rouhani’s faction, expresses this implication more clearly. In an article published on November 3, titled “The necessity to decisively investigate the Denmark situation”, the newspaper writes: “Undoubtedly, there is a potential in us that can plan and implement such plots against Iran. On the other hand, if there have been such connections, which the country’s officials have absolutely no knowledge about, there must be a serious and firm response so that the root of such rogue behavior is eliminated. Past experience in the chain murders incident shows that in some instances, rogue elements do things that will damage the government and its officials. To solve this problem, we must act resolutely and without any tolerance.”
The rogue element narrative has actually many benefits for the Iranian regime. First, the Islamic Republic can claim ignorance by denying any knowledge by its officials about the terrorist plot. Second—and that’s as important as the first, if not more—the Iranian regime as a whole can pretend to be sort of a democracy where two factions are fighting for power and the so-called moderate faction with its president, Hassan Rouhani, is struggling to curb terrorist activities while rogue elements undermine it.
As pointed out earlier, it is utterly naïve to fall for this scam. When it comes to the ideological drive and the capacity for murderous behavior both inside Iran and around the world, these “factions” inside the Iranian regime act as siblings.
This narrative of rogue elements also helps the Iranian lobby in Western countries to paint any sanctions against the Islamic Republic as damaging to the “moderate” cause of Rouhani—or the infamous Khatami. The so-called moderation movement in Iran first started in 1989 when Hashemi Rafsanjani rose to the presidency. Nearly three decades later, Iran has the world record of executions, still exports terrorism—even to Europe and the United States, supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Shiite militia groups in Iraq, and wreaks havoc in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria to name a few. Let alone its track record of human rights abuses.
In the 2017-2018 Iranian protests, which spread to nearly every major Iranian city, one of the popular chants was: “Moderates, Conservatives! The game is over!”
And so, the Iranian street—as uneducated and spontaneous it may seem to some—cleverly revealed the gist of Iranian politics over the past three decades, something that many “analysts” and “think tanks” still struggle to understand.
But there is also a flipside to Iran’s rogue element narrative, considering that it’s a last resort and brings the aim closer to the country’s leadership.
Denmark’s firm response to Iran’s plot, the Islamic Republic’s fragile economic situation, internal popular dissent and strikes, in addition to the comprehensive U.S. sanctions that just started yesterday, put the country’s theocracy in unprecedented perils that could put an end to the rule of the mullahs.
Therefore, the so-called Iranian moderates hope that by promoting the rogue element narrative, they can strengthen the hand of their lobbies in the west, pretend to be victims of hardliners for whose actions they are not responsible for, and endure the coming winter.
Let’s just repeat what Iranian protesters cleverly chanted in recent protests: “Moderates, Conservatives! The game is over!”