Robert Fisk: Battle for the Islamic Republic

Iran's Supreme Leader and its officially elected president are terrified by the spectre of counter-revolution

Share
Related Topics

Now that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has placed himself shoulder to shoulder with his officially elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the very existence of the Islamic regime may now be questioned openly in a nation ever more divided between reformists and those who insist on maintaining the integrity of the 1979 revolution. Had Khamenei chosen a middle ground, some small compromises towards the countless millions – for in the election, it appears, they were indeed uncounted – who oppose Ahmadinejad, then he might have remained a neutral father-figure. Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters had religiously – in the most literal sense of the word – refused to criticise the Supreme Leader or the existence of the Islamic Republic during last week's street demonstrations

But reacting as all revolutionaries do even decades after they have come to power – for the spectre of counter-revolution remains with them until death – Khamenei chose to paint Ahmadinejad's political opponents as potential mercenaries, spies and agents of foreign powers. Treason in the Islamic Republic is, of course, punishable by death. But Khamenei's political alliance with his very odd and hallucinatory president may have sprung from fear as much as anger.

During his Friday prayers address at Tehran University, the Supreme Leader mentioned the dangers of a "velvet" revolution and it is clear that the regime has been deeply concerned by the democratic overthrow of Eastern European and west Asian governments since the fall of the Soviet Union. People power – through which the 1979 revolution was ultimately successful – is a devastating weapon (albeit the only one) in the armoury of a serious but unarmed political opposition.

In the aftermath of the Ahmadinejad "success" at the polls, his supporters were handing out leaflets condemning the secular revolutions of Eastern Europe, and their content says much about the anxieties of Iran's clerical leadership. One of them was entitled: "The system of trying to topple an Islamic Republic in a 'velvet revolution'." It then described how it believes Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine and other nations won their freedom.

"'Velvet' or 'colourful' revolutions... are methods of exchanging power for social unrest. Colourful and 'velvet' revolutions occurred in post-communist societies of central and Eastern Europe and central Asia. Colourful revolutions have always been initiated during an election and its methods are as follows:

"1. Complete despair in the attitude of people when they are certain to lose an election...

"2. Choosing one particular colour which is selected solely for the Western media to identify (for their readers or viewers)." Mousavi used green as his campaign colour and his supporters still wear this colour on wristbands, scarves and bandannas.

"3) Announcing that there has been advance cheating before an election and repeating it non-stop afterwards... allowing exaggeration by the Western media, especially in the US.

"4) Writing letters to officials in the government, claiming vote-rigging in the election. It's interesting to note that in all such 'colourful' projects – for example, in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan – the Western-backed movements have warned of fraud before elections by writing to the incumbent governments. In Islamic Iran, these letters had already been written to the Supreme Leader."

Another leaflet maintained that a study – which Khamenei's advisers have obviously undertaken, however inaccurately – demonstrated that vote-rigging will be alleged on the very day of the election and that victory will be claimed by the opposition hours before the counting is finished and before their own defeat is announced. The results, says the document, will therefore already have a "background" of fraud. "In the final stages... supporters gather in front of the regime's official offices, holding colourful banners and protesting against vote-rigging." This part of the demonstration, the leaflet says, "is run by the foreign media who are the opposition movement's supporters so that they make good pictures and mislead the international community".

All this shows a unique and obsessive concern among the Supreme Leader's disciples about just how popular Mousavi's post-election campaign has become. Even the cutting of SMS and mobile communications – and in a sophisticated society such as Iran, this must have cost millions of dollars – did not prevent the calling of rallies which always assembled at the same moment and at the same place.

What we are now seeing is a regime which is far more worried than the Supreme Leader suggested when he threatened the opposition so baldly on Friday. Having refused any serious political dialogue with Mousavi and his opposition comrades – a few district recounts will produce no real change in the result – the Iranian regime, led by a Supreme Leader who is frightened and a president who speaks like a child, is now involved in the battle for control of the streets of Iran. It is a conflict which will need the kind of miracle in which Khamenei and Ahmadinejad both believe to avoid violence.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen