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The Possibility of a Coup d'Etat in Iran

Opinion article by Farzaneh Roostaee (source: Rooz Online)

IRGC commanders praying behind the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei

The concurrence of the repeated remarks by Revolutionary Guards commanders about the inevitability of war and their welcoming of a full conflict with Israel and the United States, and the imprisonment of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s children should not be viewed as coincidental events unraveling in Iran. Whatever the Revolutionary Guards may not understand, they certainly know the meaning of war and realize the irreversible consequences of US and Israeli threats to the region for this country.

At a time when the situation in the country seems to be in a free fall and the sale of oil has fallen to just a million barrels a day, and where the government is expected to be soon unable to pay even the salaries of its own staff while other issues such as inflation, rising prices, availability of basic needs, the value of the Dollar and gold have all spun out of control, putting Hashemi Rafsanjani under new and intense pressure cannot be viewed as something that was decided on the spur of the moment.

Since the 2009 presidential elections, Guards commanders have taken control of the crises in the country, they led the violent crackdown on popular demonstrations and they took measures to destroy the reform movement in Iran while at the same time sweetening their appetite with multi-billion Dollar oil agreements that have been facilitated through the Guards minister of oil general Rostam Ghasemkhani. Generally, in non-democratic states where people are not determinants of political events and are not the source of changes in leadership and the power structure, when the military power, the major economic resources (such as oil) and the security authority all rest in the hands of a single political group such as the Revolutionary Guards do in Iran, this group shuffles political figures based on its group views and interests, rather than on those of the public at large. This same group allows itself or has the authority to control key political and legal institutions such as the parliament by holding engineered superficial elections, or to direct the judiciary to remain in line with its policies and goals (in Iran through the office of security and protection in the judiciary branch of government), and thus remove any threats or opposition to itself.

Therefore, the imprisonment of Rafsanjani’s children can be concluded to have taken place from the security perspective of the generals for some serious event or events in the near future. The Guards view Rafsanjani as a rival to ayatollah Khamenei so they want to ensure that he is in fact not available at the “right” moment. They view him as the most potent and practical replacement for Khamenei who also has the resources and channels to interfere and even defeat the plans of the generals some of whom at one time were his allies.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani with Ayatollah Khamenei
Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani (L) with Ayatollah Khamenei

And while Rafsanjani is not exactly in complete opposition to the Guards commanders’ camp today, their differences over domestic and foreign policy issues are not new and go back to the days when the commanders had not yet announced their grandiose dreams and that they would not settle for anything less than multi-billion Dollar oil agreements. They fear that with Rafsanjani in the saddle, their days of being the key benefactors of the economic largesse of the country may be numbered.

The Guards generals know that Rafsanjani is the head of a clan whose minor and major members all support the Green Movement and carefully watch every step in the relations between their father and Mr. Khamenei and regularly ask him for his views. This puts Mr. Rafsanjani at odds with those generals who since 8 years ago have focused their attention on foreign issues and cannot grasp the changes that have taken place since then. From their perspective Rafsanjani is an insider who has turned into an outsider and is thus very dangerous whose presence in the regime, his availability and his relations with Khamenei may result in unforeseen outcomes.

If the generals have come to the boldness and aggression to draw the irreversible posture of war footing for the country and view Rafsanjani as a threat to their goals, they may even enter the field to one day remove Khamenei. In a regime where nobody is expected to be accountable to the public and where the elimination game is reaching its final chapters, one must await the final chapter of this story in which there no longer are any oil sale revenues.

The important point to bear in mind is that under the current life-and-death political and economic conditions there isn’t much time for detailed calculations about removing this or that person. Events are moving extremely rapidly with the possibility of a major mistake overnight. Such an event can be expected to take place on the eve of the US elections and may be called the coup of the generals which could take place with unity among the Guards generals and the elimination of Rafsanjani. One should not be surprised if this game of elimination soon turns lethal and includes assassinations and explosions.

At a time when sanctions are showing their real teeth and nothing remains stable, where even people’s daily needs such as tea and sugar cubes may become unavailable, a war atmosphere is the right choice, from the generals’ perspective. They have contained Rafsanjani in order to impose the idea that if their interests are not met there will be nothing left in Iran except a scorched earth and that nobody should attempt to replace Khamenei in the transition period.

Even though Rafsanjani declares that his children are no different from others, the main issue is Rafsanjani’s political weight and role when Khamenei’s position may be seriously moved around. Under these circumstances, should Mr. Rafsanjani step in to defend his children, the plans that the generals have to completely eliminate him will be finalized. If he remains silent, his children will possibly face long-term prison terms as a way to hold him hostage. In any case, Rafsanjani is today a hostage to the Guards generals so that he does not take an action to their dislike.

Nobody can deny that the detention and imprisonment of Rafsanjani’s children has taken place without Khamenei’s approval. But with the pace of developments that Guards are demonstrating, one must await the emergence of new pieces of this game that is rapidly reaching its conclusion. Whatever those pieces are, the plans that Rafsanjani’s opponents or “rogue groups inside Khamenei’s house” have to disrupt the remaining relations between Rafsanjani and Khamenei and end the regular meetings that the two have, are now crystallizing. When that takes place, not only will Rafsanjani be eliminated for good, but Khamenei too will fall completely in the hands of the Guards commanders.

A country that was run by 120 billion Dollars two years ago cannot be run with a mere 30 or 40 billion Dollars. It is not important to them what befalls on the country or even if there is any future for it. It is not even important what happens to the Iranian people in this dirty mafia game. The goal is to Pakistanize Iran. In all countries, the military and military generals are trained to step in to save the country; in Iran and Pakistan it is the other way round: the country is being prepared to give its life to the future of the Guards and its generals.

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