Khamenei backs down (a little bit)

The economic situation in the country is for very large segments of the population anything but rosy. Next to their jobs, teachers work as taxi drivers to be able to feed their families, many workers don’t get their wages paid for months; strikes are prohibited by the state alternately by subversive or violent methods. Children beg or are even forced to hard labor at the age of 7 years old. The black market in human organs flourishes, the supply is huge. Despite execution campaigns carried out consistently and relentlessly in Iran, there is a massive drug problem. Mainly reputed drug traffickers are executed in order to deter others. Nothing has improved with the drugs. What some Pasdaran units are trying to avoid, other instigate. It means that the lucrative business of drug lies in the hands of the Pasdaran. On top, all the sparrows sing it from the rooftops: the young people don’t want to have anything to do with religion anymore or they turn to other religions. Christian house-churches are crowded; in Shiraz alone there allegedly would be 30,000 members. Also the traditional spiritual orders such as the Nematollahi Gonabadi dervish order seem to have a strong flow throughout whole Iran in recent years. This order supposedly counts 4 million members. These kind of problems in the country, the regime still was able to conceal them all. These are not new problems even if they get worse. In early 2012, even the executive, the judiciary and the legislature fought each other fiercely and accused each other of corruption. Ahmadinejad against Ali Larijani, the speaker of parliament. Sadegh Larijani, the Minister of Justice, against Ahmadinejad and verbal attacks and beatings of members of parliament completed the picture of the last few months. In addition, again and again there has been criticism to Khamenei’s policy also from high Ayatollahs, which weighs more heavily in the current regime of Iran than we can imagine in the West. Khamenei is under pressure due to the sanctions; he is under pressure because of the failed operations in Thailand, Azerbaijan and in the U.S. and of course the much-debated nuclear program of Iran creates tensions in Iran's political class. He himself has brought these tensions on him. Change of Khamenei’s course during Khatami’s presidency
When the 8-year presidency period of Khatami ended, Khamenei was not at all satisfied with the development of the society towards greater openness towards the West.
He changed his strategy and brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the ring, ensured that Ahmadinejad conquered Rafsanjani in his first presidential election and that the so-called the principlists were given more room. In the background, he launched campaigns against religious groups that he considered as the greatest ideological threat to his rule and especially a threat for his legitimacy. The greatest danger in this respect came from the Sufis, especially from the Nematollahi Gonabadi order whose members had established numerous non-governmental organizations to fulfill social responsibilities. Sufis were running hospitals, were active in the field of care of the elderly, education and culture. But also members of Christian house-churches, Bahai, Sunnis and other spiritual or religious groups were among those who were branded as enemies. In the time of Khatami, the attacks against Sufis, which took place under Rafsanjani, weakened. Khatami convinced Khamenei to prevent the open attacks and rather to pursue a "strategy of embedding". Sufis were encouraged to organize events on sufism in Europe and the U.S. In Great Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Bulgaria, Canada and the United States symposia about poets such as Shah Vali Nematollah or Rumi took place. The special feature of these symposia was that each of these events was undermined by agents of the regime. It was their job to win the interests of the Western academics for the Iranian regime and to push the Sufis aside. The agents of the Information Ministry could pursue their favorite activity and fill their databases about the Sufis and about their contacts in the West with countless files. This strategy was abandoned after some Sufis withdrew themselves and others who did not manage to interest Western audiences. Khamenei again wanted to enforce his hard-line strategy and he allowed religious-fascist forces more scope for their work. Members of the Order Nematollahi Gonabadi suffered persecution and destruction by paramilitary Basij in Qom, Karaj, Boroujerd, Kish, Isfahan, Gonabad, Kavar and other places. Nobody every claimed unambiguously political responsibility for these acts. High politicians as for example Member of Parliament Alaeddin Boroujerdi instead accused the victims to have incited popular anger by so-called "un-Islamic behavior" or to have contacts with enemies of the system or to act against the regime. Already before the end of Khatami's presidency (2005), a book that was distributed between Basijis during Rafsanjani's presidency 10 years before, was reprinted and served them for hate speeches and attacks against Sufis ("In the world of the Sufis" / "In Cujeh Sufian" ). This book was part of a series of books of the Kayhan Institute written against various groups identified as opponents.
Payam Fazlinejad placed the contacts abroad to the disposal of the intellectual power such as Ramin Jahanbegloo.
Hassan Shayanfar operated as an author against mystical currents. Among other things, a book against Hassan Bassri was published, a Muslim of the second generation, who was still familiar with many threads towards Mohammad and who was known and beloved for his spirituality and compassion. He defended the opinion that human beings have a free will. Times of persecution
These seemingly random attacks, which were accumulating six months after the taking office of Ahmadinejad and after the ideology of the Messiah was attributed to him, began suddenly to have a face on 27. Mehr 1389 (18 November 2010) when Ali Khamenei visited Qom and gave a historical speech against Sunnis, Baha'is, Sufism as "false mysticism" and supporters of the Christian house-churches. Here the source of past and future persecutions became obvious. It was the Supreme Leader himself as without his consent and arrangement such campaigns could not take place in Iran. The executors of these campaigns were located in the security forces of the Pasdaran. The mullah in charge was Abdulrahman Biranvand, director of the Institute of Religions and Sects. Via the website Bultannews, Borhannews and Adyannews, the authorised persons by Khamenei carried on their attacks against these "mystical currents". After the brutal and massive crackdown by the regime during the shocking street protests in Iran, they needed a few scapegoats. Khamenei and his state apparatus put some reformists against the wall, marginalized some people mostly with political weight, such as Rafsanjani, and carried through his hard course inside and outside. Among other things, the regime tried to take revenge for several attacks on facilities in the country and on scientists who were involved in the nuclear program. After failed attempts to assassinate Israeli and Saudi diplomats in the United States, Thailand and Azerbaijan, this strategy was soon abandoned. The regime in Iran had to concentrate on the events in Syria. Meanwhile, the involvement of Revolutionary Guards and Basij in the crackdown on protests in Syria is official, even though in the latest interview with FAZ's Christiane Hoffmann Ahmadinedjad claimed not to know of any involvement. The ideological shifts
In the holy city of Qom, partner city of the Spanish Santiago de Compostela, many religious institutes and training centers for clergy are located. Experts speak of two religious trends that as far as their orientation is concerned are aligned fundamentally opposite each other. One is rooted in the teachings and Quran interpretations of the mystically oriented Alameh Tabatabaie, while the second stream is marked by of the social revolutionary totalitarian ideas. The second stream is represented by clerics such as Mesbah Yazdi and Mohammad Yazdi. Both Yazdi’s belonging to the circle of Khamenei should clear the society of all elements of religious deviations and ideological differences. Both advocated the election of Ahmadinejad. Above all, Mohammad Yazdi, one of the four main leaders, was assigned by Khamenei to free the way to make an overall persecution of the Sufi dervishes of the Nematollahi Gonabadi possible. Khamenei, who studied at the Lomonosov University in Moscow and interprets Islam more in the tradition of Ali Shariatis anarchist view, is according to some observers more a disguised communist who seeks rather Stalin's totalitarian dictatorship and uses Islam only as a label, because he rules in a predominantly Muslim country, hopes to range the people on his side.
In order to encourage moderate Islamic clerics to take a stand against these manipulative practices, Dr. Seyed M. Azmayesh, religious scholar and Sufi master residing in Paris, broadcasts regularly comments on issues and interpretations about Quran, Islam and daily politics via satellite television in Iran. His programs (Dorr TV) are also followed by many students and teachers in religious schools (Houzehs) in Qom. When the planned stoning of Sakineh Ashtiani caused an outcry in the West, Azmayesh demonstrated in a program about Sangsar (stoning), that the Koran criticizes stoning as a method of contemporary despots and that it is not promoted as an Islamic punishment. A short time later, also ayatollahs living in Iran issued their legal opinion, which confirmed Azmayesh's line of observation. After that, the regime officially deleted stoning as death penalty. Since early 2012, Azmayesh has been attending to the matter of Hassan Basri in a series of programs with more than 30 episodes. The main goal of this series was a narrative report to show the original and authentic interpretations of the Koran and Islamic teachings. Azmayesh demonstrated a direct connection between Hassan Basri and Alameh Tabatabai and demystified the superficial interpretation of the Islam version of Shariatis and similarly arguing ideologues. By doing so, Azmayesh is striving to break down the myth that the advocates of the system have built up. The myth is the fact that some mullahs and other government officials claim to act on behalf of God and thus claiming objectivity for themselves and in the same breath what they deny for others. All crimes, all human rights violations in Iran were and are committed in the name of God. With this trick, the rulers in Iran deceive the people and wash their own hands of responsibility. This arrogant interpretation is even anti-Islamic according to the statements made by Azmayesh. The rulers of Iran are nothing more than despots who hide behind the name of a religion and use that religion to secure their power. The rebellious protegé
After Khamenei had raised Ahmadinejad to the presidency in 2006, with high hopes in a representative of the hard-line, this new president now also had to implement Khamenei’s new strategy into action in all areas. Ahmadinejad received Khamenei’s instruction that he should take care of the disposal of various ideological opponents, including the elimination of the Sufis. This decision of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad didn’t want to endorse as chairman of the Committee of the Cultural Revolution. Presumably the influence of Maschaie Rahim, Ahmadinejad’s adviser and closest confidant, was already visible here. Mashaie allegedly has a predilectionfor Indian yogis and magical practices.
For that reason, Khamenei put Minister of Internal Affairs Pourmohammadi, Intelligence Chief Edschei and Minister of Justice Ayatollah Shahroudi to the job. This infuriated Ahmadinejad because in conformity withthe regulations he is the one who should direct his ministers. Over time, all three ministers were sacked by Ahmadinejad.
The first cracks in the relationship between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad became visible. When finally in 2011, Ahmadinejad wanted to put the Ministry of information under his complete control and also dismissed Heydar Moslehi who was reinstalled by Khamenei, a fierce struggle for power burned loose between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and continues still today. Slyness or knobkerrie: The different styles of the Iranian intelligence
Next to many different measures to clean the society from Western trends and reform-oriented elements, Khamenei founded another secret organization (Sepah-e Pasdaran Sazmane Etela'at) under the auspices of the Pasdaran and the guidance of Hossein Taeb. The approach of the Ministry of Information and the style of the Pasdaran agents could not be more diverging. While the example above, in the time of Khatami, is showing the more sustained and subtle scale operation of the Information Ministry, the agents of the Pasdaran work as wild villains, who out of all social conventions and in gross violation of Iranian law, provoke, strike and kidnap people, even those who have been build up meticulously to work for the ministry of information. They refer to do anything for the leader and for Islam and justify their actions out of divine legitimacy. Back to the roots
Ayatollah Mohaghighe Dâmad is a Muslim philosopher from Qom, who has long kept silent about the conditions in the country. His grandfather, Hajj Abdulkarim Haeri Yazdi, founded 90 years ago the Houzeh-je Elmi in Qom. It is a renowned institute that teaches young clergyman a deeper understanding of Islam. He is one of the few ayatollahs who have dared to criticize publicly the course of Khamenei. At an event in Tehran's Institute of Philosophy, he talked about the catastrophic level of training of this once so esteemed institution. Literally: "The original incentive of Houzeh is completely lost. The reason is the increasing fanaticism." He then related a tradition of the system founder Khomeini, who was in his early years also a student of Tabatabai and had been interested in mysticism. "Once Khomeini lectured on the works of the religious philosopher Mullah Sadra and Mirdâmad. He had never dared to address the works of the philosophers of light, Suhrawardi. Very soon, he also abandoned to mention Mirdâmad. When asked why, he hesitated for some time before telling about a dream. In the dream Mirdâmad had appeared, asking him not to mention his works because the school was full of fanatical religious people who didn’t understand his work and when Khomeini would explain them, these fanatic people might come to the idea to issue fatwas against him. Therefore, it is better not to interpret his works." With this Dâmad wanted to say that fundamentalism was rampant already in the days of Khomeini, and said that the situation had even become worse. He said: "Religion has become the science of fraud in the name of Islam. Violence and hatred have suppressed compassion and helpfulness." At last, Dâmad postulated to return back to the roots and to engage in the Koran. He also praised a book by a jurist from Andalusia, Shâti, who lived more than 1000 years ago. The movement of those who understand Islam as a source of wisdom and mysticism begins to agitate. Only two weeks ago, Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili asked the Iranian people for forgiveness for what was done to them by the regime and called the representatives of the regime to apologize themselves for their crimes. Khamenei's ideological purges, hate proclamations and orders of violence have resulted in a huge impasse. The hard facts
Since the end of May 2012, there are at least three interesting lines to be seen regarding political decisions in Iran. The philosopher and member of parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a close family to Khamenei has lost the election for the leadership of parliament against Ali Larijani. Experts report that Haddad-Adel was Khamenei's favorite for the post, a defeat for Khamenei and a game point for the clique around the Larijani family. Although both candidates are considered loyal to Khamenei, there are nevertheless differences. Haddad-Adel is regarded as a supporter of Ahmadinejad, while the past and future parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani is ever putting stones on the current government’s path. Lately, Rafsanjani was leading intensive talks with Khamenei to make possible a pain-free return of his son Mehdi Hashemi to Iran. He has been accused of corruption and they want to put him on trial. Khamenei seems to have promised to design a reconciliatory way. But Rafsanjani who knows well the methods of the regime wanted to make sure nothing on the road between the airport and the courtroom will happen and insisted on this detail as well. This titilating detail is significant.
In the same time, the former opponents Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad are contriving political solidarity. That Rafsanjani reappears on the political arena, is a strong signal for a change of strategy by Khamenei. It looks as if the pressure forced Khamenei ​​to get back his old companions into the ring.
The clearest signal of a turnaround, however, is the removal of Mesbah Yazdi and Mohammad Yazdi from the management of organizations and training institutions for clergy in Qom. They were symbols of a hard-line course and for an Islam of violence. Instead, more moderate clerics as Javadi Amoli and especially the Friday prayer leader of Qom, Ayatollah Reza Ostadi come into play.
With the very high dynamics in Iranian politics it is not clear where this will lead to. But it seems as if Khamenei has bowed down somewhat. Helmut N. Gabel for

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