Iranian Politics Explained

by wjw on May 7, 2011

If you’ve ever wondered why Iranian politics are so strange, perhaps the answer is now at hand.  It seems that the president’s inner circle has been relying for advice on “djinn, fairies, and demons.”

We have this on no less an authority that Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, whose spat with President Ahmadinejad’s court has now reached metaphysical proportions.

The current problem began a couple weeks ago when Ahmadinejad fired his intelligence minister.  Khamenei ordered him reinstated.  Ahmedinejad balked.

Now, it turns out that Khamenei has no constitutional authority to fire or hire cabinet ministers.  But he does have the authority to prosecute witches!

Supporters of Khamenei say that Ahmadinejad is surrounded by “deviants” in his inner circle, including his controversial chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who wants to undermine the involvement of clerics in Iran’s politics. Mashaei and his allies have recently been accused of using supernatural powers and invoking djinns (spirits) in pursuing the government’s policies.

On Thursday, the commander of the powerful revolutionary guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying: “People [close to Khamenei] are not relying on djinns, fairies and demons … and they will not stand any deviation [of the government in this regime].”

So it’s pretty clear what Khamenei is saying: Obey me or I’ll continue to arrest all your friends for sorcery.

(I don’t know what the penalty for sorcery is in Iran, but I can guess.  I mean, the penalty for everything else is death, right?)

Since Ahmadinejad relied on Khamenei’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah thugs to crush the opposition in Iran’s disputed election a couple years ago, I’d say the President is fast running out of options.   After all, he killed, tortured, imprisoned, raped, and beat all the liberals who would otherwise be supporting him now.

Ahmadinejad can either knuckle under and surrender what remains of his independence, or he can resign and never be heard from again, possibly disappearing into the same gulag into which he disappeared his enemies in 2009.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, in my view, though it’s a shame this all strengthens Khamenei, for all that the witchcraft business exposes him to the ridicule of the sane half of the planet.

On the other hand, maybe the President will be rescued by a djinni!  That would be kinda cool.

Charlie Stross May 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Point of note: many Americans seem to make the mistake of assuming that when another nation has an elected official called a President, it means that the official in question fills an equivalent niche to the President of the United States.

This ain’t true, especially in Iran.

According to wikipedia (so it must be true) the President of Iran’s responsibilities are:

Head of Government and Cabinet
Head of the Council of National Security
Head of the Council of Cultural Revolution
Sends and receives all foreign ambassadors
Selection of Vice Presidents

Note that the PoI is not the Head of State; that’s the Supreme Leader, i.e. Khamenei. The PoI’s is basically a glorified prime minister, who also chairs the national security council, runs the nuclear program, and is in charge of cultural and science policy (via the council of cultural revolution).

But the Supreme Leader can basically fire his ass if he so desires.

Melinda May 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm

This is absolutely hilarious and horrifying all at the same time. When did much of the world, or at least the religious world decide that rational thought was a way overrated skill?

MaMMaD May 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Coming from Iran, I know that the “Supreme=Leader” according to the constitution (part 110 especially) has the final word on everything, meaning he can do anything he wants with the issue of a pseudo-religious-royal-decree (by translating the exact phrase it would lose all the meaning).

When Ahmadinejad was selected (vs. elected) 2 years ago, he appointed “Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei” as his first vice president, another royal-decree by the supreme leader made him fire Rahim Mashaei (although after a week of struggle). Then he was appointed chief of staff (he also has like 7 other positions lol).

I think, it would not strengthen the supreme leaders position, as Ahmadinejad has supporters (not as many as 24 million that they announced in election but around 5-6) especially among the poor. The Liberals and everyone who is capable of sane thinking is already against him. That would mean it would reduce the number of Supreme-Leader’s supporters (but maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part).

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