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The Revolution Within the Revolution

The Revolution Within the Revolution

Friday, 25 June, 2021 - 10:30

On January 18, the ruling establishment (Supreme Leader’s Office) shut down the space for political deviance that had been around for 30 years, during which political life in Iran consisted of a competition between two political trends (reformist and conservative) and the foundations for the Second Islamic Iranian Republic were laid. The latter is the heir to the legitimacy of the revolutionary Islamic Republic, which was established by Ayatollah Khomeini and maintained a singular (revolutionary) nature until his death in 1989. The revolutionary regime managed to retrieve the revolutionary state that had strayed from the righteous path it had been founded on since 1979.

On the path to having things return to their original course, the Supreme Leader’s institution excluded allies and rivals, from the judiciary, parliament and the president’s office, with the aim of ending three decades of internal dynamism that have divided the Islamic Republic into two projects competing to define the nature of the state and revolution. This dynamism emerged on the scene after the founding Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s passing, and these political trends turned into two fully-fledged political movements after Mohammad Khatami ascended to the presidency in 1997.

As they were reestablishing the Islamic Republic, the overhaul’s advocates realized that there is no avoiding a revolution within the state, which paved the way for the revolution against the revolution to make it more aligned with the vision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has called for choosing a “youthful revolutionary government.” And this is the formula that the ruling establishment is betting will save the Islamic regime from withering away and preserve its character. This was evident in the speech given by Khamenei on the occasion of Nowruz (the Iranian New Year) on March 21. Speaking about the presidential elections, he said that they are “of great importance,” both from the internal point of view, with the rejuvenation it will bring about with a vibrant government, or from the external point of view, as it strengthens us as a nation.”

The political milieu close to the Supreme Leader’s Office treated the latest presidential election like a turning point that separate two stages, and it thus put all of its strength, constitutional, doctrinal and revolutionary, to predetermine its outcome, given the president’s importance for the transition period and the role it will play in maintaining the regime’s identity for decades to come. It was, therefore, inevitable that they would choose a figure distant from the lines of contention that Iranian politics is typically divided on, and who follows the Khamenei school’s revolutionary doctrine.

The project for a revolution within the revolution was the means for taking “the revolution’s second step,” which Ali Khamenei discussed on the anniversary of the revolution’s victory in February 2019. For this reason, the Supreme Leader’s institution went through with its coup, which was similar to a palace coup, allowing the revolution to kill and get rid of its sons, as well as allowing it to reproduce itself in accordance with the novel developments in such a way that it becomes dominated by the ideological and revolutionary path determined by the Supreme Leader alone.

The engineering of the presidential elections exposed the regime’s fears for the future, and it is this anxiety that pushed the ruling elite to finalize its choice and impose a Raisi presidency without accounting for the degree of popular support he can count on, satisfying itself with the pledges of loyalty from its base, a constituency that has become a minority. However, this base remains solid, having withstood the reformist storm that was brewing during the phase that saw the ascension of moderates, in addition to the revolution’s militarization.

The latter phenomenon is embodied in the Revolutionary Guard, which committed to continuing to play its role as the revolution’s guard, at least during the state that requires a president whose vision is aligned with Guard’s ambitions for the future of the regime, a president it can cooperate on choosing the new Supreme Leader. His victory could also impose new rules for the distribution of power and allow the Guard to play a direct role in the event that the presidency becomes vacant again.

Based on the above, those in power, the Guard and the revolutionary wing (or the revolution within the revolution) are protecting it on the inside and the outside. They are striving to ensure that a single, puritanical political stream will control the state’s institutions, guaranteeing the regime’s survival for the foreseeable future. It will be more ready to confront internal deviance, which cannot be seen as far-fetched, as its scope is impossible to measure. However, it is also not far-fetched for the revolution within the revolution to ignite a revolution against it.

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