If you have followed my reports on Iranian politics so far, you already know that the reformist/moderate Rouhani administration and the conservative/fundamentalist military wing of the regime, the Revolutionary Guards, are now almost openly at each other’s throats.
Indeed, we now know that the Revolutionary Guards are secretly attempting a “cold coup” against Rouhani, which means they want to make his administration completely ineffective and powerless rather than outright toppling it.
And now Rouhani is fighting back. At least with words.
At an anti-corruption conference, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani railed against corruption and according to many observers, took an indirect shot at the dominance of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in military, economic and media matters.
During the Dec. 8 speech Rouhani said, “We have to eliminate the consolidation of power. With the consolidation of power in one institution corruption is created, regardless of what you do. If the guns, the money, the newspapers, the websites is gathered in one place, certainly there will be corruption.”
This is a very direct jab at the Revolutionary Guards. It’s also an indirect jab at the office of Supreme Leader.
According to the president’s website, Rouhani recounted how in the first decade after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when he served in parliament, they fought to bring Iran’s intelligence agency under the administration and turn it into a ministry, placing the parliament in a supervisory role. He added that they pushed for the Intelligence Ministry not to be an armed one.
The intelligence agency was placed under the authority of the administration, according to Rouhani, who said, “Otherwise, if you gather the intelligence, the guns, the money, the capital, the websites, the newspapers, the news agencies under one institution, there would be corruption.”
This is again makes it very clear and it’s very important. The Revolutionary Guards have their own intelligence program, plus while the Intelligence Ministry is nominally under the president, they have influenced that ministry a long time ago, so that many observers know that Rouhani has abysmal to zero control over that ministry. Saying that the military groups should have no hand in intelligence is a very major rebuke, more important than the first rebuke which the press focused on more.
Rouhani continued, “We have problems. We have to solve the problems. The consolidation of power in one place creates corruption.” He asked, “Why did they create three branches; why was it necessary? The separation of branches is to control power.”
Here the Al-Monitor reporter omits a sentence. He says: “The world was wise enough to realize that.”
Rouhani said that even the position of the supreme leader, who he called a “just leader” and “the highest authority in our country,” has a supervisory body called the Assembly of Experts, which was created during former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s time. Rouhani asked, “Why did the constitution do this, and this during Imam [Khomeini’s] time? Because any power that does not have supervision will have problems.”
We all know that Khamenei has declared that there should be no supervision over the bodies he oversees himself, which include all the military bodies – the army, the Revolutionary Guards, and basij. Two very powerful people, one reformist and one conservative, have quoted him saying so.
Rouhani says that if the problem of corruption is not solved, people will start questioning the Islamic revolution and the regime itself, saying that we called the Pahlavi regime the corrupt regime and so we need to solve this problem. All around a very damning and harsh speech.
And there’s no wonder that the Supreme Leader wasn’t happy with what was going on.
Ayatollah Khamenei criticized the conference where Rouhani spoke, called the “Conference for the promotion of healthy administration and the fight against corruption.” Iran’s Vice President Eshag Jahangiri had invited the supreme leader to either address the gathering or send a message to be read before the conference began.
Khamenei’s office sent a letter, which was also published on Khamenei.ir, read, “I praise the efforts of the officials, but what miracle is this conference and others like it supposed to accomplish? Are the responsibilities of the officials from the three branches not clear?”
The letter continued, “Why are firm and fundamental steps not taken so that everyone can see their tangible results? My expectation of the officials is that, with or without conferences, firm and doable decisions [should] be made … and acted upon.”
Again the Al-Monitor doesn’t cover this. In the same conference, Sadegh Larijani, the radical conservative cleric who is the head of the judiciary, attacked Rouhani’s administration for revealing information about the corruption, saying that the administration paints a black picture of the country. His brother, Ali Larijani, who’s the Chairperson of the Parliament, said that maybe there will be a committee above the president’s office which would tackle corruption. It needs to be said that the Larijani family were among the conservative enemies of the previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he had revealed documents which show these brothers are among the most corrupt officials in the regime themselves.
This was not all. A day before that Rouhani has spoken at Tehran University to commemorate the Student Day. Student Day is a very political day in Iran and under Ahmadinejad they used to shut it down completely or close the universities for air pollution and similar excuses. This year we saw some political movements and protests again.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s Student Day speech was interrupted by students chanting in supporting of Iran’s 2009 Green Movement leaders. While Rouhani handled the chants well and attempted to spin them in his favor, his administration faced accusations of cancelling the speeches of conservative figures at other universities.
I don’t think he did any “spinning”. Students chanted and asked him to remain loyal to his promise and he said he would remain loyal to his promises. He agreed with the students. That’s why the protesters cheered for him. Basically students were chanting him throughout his speech because he kept saying things they wanted to hear.
If I had to take a wild guess, I’d say the students support Rouhani.
Student Day in Iran is the anniversary of the 1953 murder of three University of Tehran students under the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. While the day has held various meanings over the years, in the last couple, the day has been mostly used by students to express support for student activists and for Green Movement leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest for nearly four years.
Short video clips of the students chanting during Rouhani’s speech were shared widely on Facebook, and even some Iranian news agencies published pictures of students holding posters quoting Mousavi’s famous line, “My red line is the rights of the people.” Mousavi has maintained that the results of the 2009 elections were fraudulent.
One of the more popular chants during Rouhani’s speech went, “1,000 days have passed, Mousavi has not returned.” In the linked video, conservative students chant “Death to Mousavi” in response, though they are shouted down by the larger pro-Mousavi crowd.
Another slogan widely shared online was, “Our message is clear, the house arrests must end.” After a round of chanting, a student is heard yelling, “Mr. President, you promised.”
Rouhani told them, “Our oath is not breakable.” The students responded, “Rouhani, we support you.”
Surprise, my guess was right!
This was basically a glorious sight to behold, and a nightmare to conservatives. Green Movement is the strongest at universities.