Sunday, March 20, 2011

Important Political Changes in Iran

By Barry Rubin

I'm not going to write about this in detail but just so you're aware, there are some important shifts in Iranian ruling circles.

1. Rafsanjani, the most "moderate" leader in the establishment has been pushed out. He has favored a more pragmatic policy aimed at making money than at pursuing ideological aggression. He has been dissatisfied since the regime stole the election in 2009. Cautious and power-oriented, Rafsanjani won't take any steps to join the opposition or to oppose the regime but this does not mark some weakening in the ruling coalition.

2. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to expand his power, even challenging Supreme Guide Khamenei. Ahmadinejad has the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) behind him.

3. But the IRGC is also developing an independent role. Might it one day stage a coup? Some Iranians refer to what's happening now as a "silent coup" given the IRGC's unprecedented power.

4. Khamenei is competing with Ahmadinejad in part by becoming more openly radical and strident.

In short, while these are interesting developments to watch they signal neither the weakening of the regime nor a change in policy. If anything, the most extreme ideologues are gaining even more power.

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