Huda al-Husseini

‘Personal Skirmishes’ Shake Foundations of the Regime in Tehran!

Western sources claim that the Leader of the Iranian Republic, Ali Khamenei, was furious when he learned that the death sentence of former Defense Minister Alireza Akbari had been implemented on January 14. In fact, he had asked Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi to use his authority to change Akbari’s sentence to life in prison. And it was at this moment that the Supreme Leader realized that not being involved in the day-to-day administration of his country because of his fragile health had led to a power struggle among the country’s centers of power.

With the execution of Akbari, the infighting became a dangerous, bloody conflict. The Supreme Leader was informed that Ebrahim Raisi knew that Ali Larijani had visited Khamenei after the eruption of the women’s revolution (or the Mahsa Amini uprising) and criticized Raisi’s handling of the situation. Raisi thus issued orders to speed up the implementation of Akbari’s death sentence to retaliate against and intimidate Larijani, who had once been his close friend, throwing the Supreme Leader’s counsel against the wall.

The same sources add that Ali Khamenei asked his son Mojtaba to meet him with Ali Larijani urgently, and the three met that same day. The Supreme Leader told Larijani, a former Parliamentary Speaker, that, despite his complaints, his assessment of Raisi’s performance had been misguided.

Khamenei asked Larijani how he thought matters could be resolved. Larijani explained that he believes that violence is not the solution because it engenders despair, hatred, and anger, which give rise to retaliatory violence. The first thing that must be done, he continued, is the release of thousands of detainees by order of the Supreme Leader, not of Ebrahim Raisi, who had lost the trust of most citizens. Next, the draconian security measures enforced by the Basij must end, and access to the Internet and all social media platforms must be resumed.

Activists say that security forces have killed over 520 people, including dozens of children, and detained over 19,000. After these unlawful arrests and the unfair trials that followed, the judiciary issued harsh sentences, including the death penalty against demonstrators.

Nineteen-year-old Danial Aghili was writing on the walls of Tehran in support of women’s protests on October 11 when he was confronted and arrested by the armed forces.

According to leaked reports, his jailers beat him constantly during the first 48 hours of his detention and offered him nothing to eat or drink.

He was then left out in the cold for hours with a bucket of ice placed over him.

Investigators held a stun gun to Aghili’s neck at least six times. He eventually lost consciousness and, for a few minutes, was presumed dead.

After the conclusion of the meeting between Khamenei and Larijani, which went on for a while despite the doctors’ orders against putting the Supreme Leader under stress, Khamenei called Ebrahim Raisi and summoned him for an important meeting. Raisi canceled his prior commitments and headed to Khamenei’s home.

Their meeting was brief. Khamenei informed Raisi that he had decided to immediately release all the detainees without exception, adding that all emergency security measures would be lifted. Raisi stayed on his feet throughout the meeting and left visibly shocked. The Supreme Leader’s orders were carried out immediately, and a statement was issued and sent to all news agencies.

The statement was read out on the news repeatedly to confirm Ali Khamenei’s instructions. Some protesters welcomed Khamenei’s decision. However, the majority kept quiet, rejecting topical measures that do not address the heart of the problem, the fundamentalist regime.

To thwart this revolution against his approach to governance, Raisi has played the role of a responsible official working to cement the influence of Iran and its prominence among the powers hostile to the United States. He claims that he is above all of these “personal skirmishes,” operating like they are little more than dust on shoulders that merely need to be brushed off.

There he was, going to China on a three-day trip on Tuesday. This was his first state visit to China and the first state visit to China by an Iranian president in 20 years. It is expected to deepen ties between the two political and economic partners opposed to the US-led Western hegemony over global affairs.

China purchases a lot of oil from Iran. In 2021, the countries signed a multi-billion dollar 25-year strategic cooperation agreement that covers several economic sectors, from oil to mining, industry, transportation, and agriculture.

Both countries have tensions with the United States and seek to present themselves, alongside Russia, as counterweights to US power.

Washington has accused Iran of selling hundreds of attack drones to Russia in an effort to help Russia in its war on Ukraine, and the US has imposed sanctions on the executives of an Iranian drone manufacturer. At the same time, ties between Moscow and Beijing have grown more robust.

In any case, after Akbari’s execution, Ali Khamenei realized that the battle for succession had become bloody. He knows that he must work to transfer power over what remains of his life and that otherwise, the regime could collapse after the period of uncertainty begins.

Despite the parliamentary elections, Iranian democracy is heretical. The country’s political system is totalitarian and autocratic par excellence. Indeed, the Supreme Leader, no one else, has the discretion to choose its president, and the former claims that he derives his legitimacy from god.

And so, the Supreme Leader’s absence will create a vacuum in the most important center of power in Iran, which helps us understand the animosity of the struggle over the position of Supreme Leader. Ali Khamenei has lost the luxury of biding his time. Nearly 86, he suffers from acute health problems and has lost the powerful presence he had enjoyed for forty years since replacing his predecessor, Ruhollah Mostafa Khomeini.

Many observers doubt that he can arrange for a smooth and peaceful transfer of power at this stage. The hardline conservatives, Ebrahim Raisi among them, control the armed apparatuses, and they are waiting for their chance to do away with the foundational figures of the regime, who aspire to take a new approach to governance fit for this age, as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has done. This split between the pillars of the regime makes averting a clash after Khamenei dies difficult. Indeed, the Mullah regime will become embroiled in a sharp struggle that will involve several parties, forces, and issues in Iran and the region.