July 16, 2014

Was there an Attempt to Remove Rahbar?

In late May - early June of this year, Western diplomats in the Islamic Republic of Iran had been actively discussing in their circle the question of possible attempts to remove from office the Supreme Leader of the country (“Rahbar-e Moazzam”) - Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei.


Supreme Leader of Iran, His Highness, Lord of the Time Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme Leader of Iran, His Highness, Lord of the Time Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Note: Ali Hosseini Khamenei was born July 17, 1939 (75 years old) in Mashhad in the family of a clergyman. He is Azerbaijani by origin, from the clan of sayyids (a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad). Fluent in the Arabic, Persian and Azerbaijani languages.

In June 1981, Khamenei was subject to ​​an attempt of the members of the terrorist People's Mojahedin organization of Iran (MEK or MKO- from Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization), in which he was seriously wounded. In the same year, after the assassination of the second elected President of Iran Mohammad-Ali Rajai, Khamenei became the first representative of the clergy as President of Iran. 95% of voters voted for him.

As the Supreme Leader, he greatly expanded the powers of Rahbar, appropriated part of the Iranian president's powers in the sphere of the control over the activities of the Parliament, Presidential Administration, Council of Ministers, judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of Iran, media, military, intelligence service, police and several non-governmental organizations, foundations and business- associations.

It should be noted that prior to the appointment to the post of the Supreme Leader, R. Khomeini had not even had the title of Ayatollah, as required by the Constitution of Iran. Three months before his death, R. Khomeini gathered the Commission to amend the Constitution and developed an amendment according to which Rahbar could be “any expert in Islamic law, having the necessary organizational skills”. June 4, 1989, when Khomeini died, the amendment had not been adopted yet. But the Council of Experts appointed him the temporary Supreme Leader till the adoption of the amendment to the Constitution. So, within one night Ali Akbar Khamenei “rose” in the Islamic hierarchy from Hojjat-ol-Islam to Ayatollah.

At this, they connected this with the former president of Iran, a famous politician and a very wealthy businessman and a high-ranking cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.


Uncrowned Shah of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Uncrowned Shah of Iran, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani

Note: Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was born August 25, 1934 (80 years old) in the village of Nug, Kerman province. His nickname is “kale” (beardless). At the age of 16 he moved to the city of Qom, where he was attending Ruhollah Khomeini's lectures on the Islamic law, and later became not only his student, but also a closest ally and friend. Behind Khomeini's back could always be seen the beardless “kale” in a white turban, shifted to one ear or to the back of the head. Witnesses say that only Rafsanjani succeeded in making Khomeini laugh and improving his bad mood.

After the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani became part of the transitional government, and in 1980 he became the first speaker of the Majlis, and held this position until 1989.

Until August 1989, Rafsanjani had been Iran's president. Since 2000 he leads the Expediency Discernment Council (Majma-e Tashkhis-e Maslahat-e Nezam), which takes the final decision in case of a dispute between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians of the Constitution.

Until 2011, he presided over the Council of Experts, where he still retains his influence over most of the members of the organization and where he so far has many supporters. In clerical and political circles of Iran he is seen as the main rival of the current Supreme Spiritual Leader A. Khamenei. In the eyes of Iranians he is the uncrowned Shah of Iran.


A veteran of the Islamic Revolution, he is one of the wealthiest people in the country, the owner of pistachio plantations and entire industries, tycoon whose capitals are placed in banks in many countries. An experienced politician, who has the support among liberal reformers, he perfectly knows the technique of manipulating the masses. Being a master of intrigue, he positions himself a moderate liberal with a conservative slant and in the past had repeatedly stated his readiness to make concessions to the democratically-minded youth, to be engaged in a dialogue with the United States.

Rafsanjani's energy and his closeness to Rahbar, has always clearly divided his environment into friends and enemies. The latest assassination attempt on Rafsanjani was made March 2, 1994 near the Mausoleum of Imam Khomeini, when he personally managed to neutralize the attacker using karate, which played in his favor.

After Ali Khamenei's being wounded in June 1981, when the terrorist act killed more than 70 party leaders of the Islamic Republican Party, Rafsanjani took his post of the head in charge of “Friday prayers” in Tehran. The matter is that a person on this post has enormous political influence because his preaching at crowded Namazes is spread by all Iranian newspapers, radio and television. It is thanks to this high rostrum, that Rafsanjani became the most famous politician in the country. Of course, after Imam Khomeini.

In Iran, from time to time there are rumors about deterioration of the health of the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As Khamenei does not have an official successor, the Leader's long absence or death may provoke a struggle for power exactly at the moment when, for example, the Iran's negotiations with the West on Iran's nuclear program will come to the final stage of the long-awaited signing of the Agreement.

Over the past few years, Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly “died” for a few weeks. In Iran, almost everybody knows that the health of the 75-year-old Khamenei is not stable, and occasionally he has the aggravation of chronic diseases. Israeli news agency “Cursor” likes to write about this. The topic of the state of health of the Supreme Leader is not sidestepped in other countries either. Thus, in 2007 an American expert Michael Ledine unveiled in his blog the information about the death of Khomeini. Later it became obvious that he was the victim of misinformation.

However, Rahbar's long absence generates a lot of rumors. The Israeli website DEBKAfile believes that Khamenei's absence this time “is a scheduled” step. In order to avoid this way explanations about Iran's new concessions in the negotiations with “5 +1” group and not to show which side he takes in President Hassan Rouhani's foreign policy maneuvers. At this experts agree that the real reason may be just another exacerbation.

Indeed, after Khamenei's appearance in public October 9, 2013, when he received in his house participants of the National Conference of the young elite of Iran, there was quite a long interval. But, for example, only within the last two months Rahbar has met with:

- Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Mehdavi Kani, who since June 4 was undergoing treatment with a diagnosis of heart failure in a clinic in Tehran (June 5, 2014);

- Professors and scientists of Iranian universities (July 2, 2014);

- Hafizes (Koran experts), government officials and heads of military departments (July 7, 2014).

To understand the principle of the supreme power and Ali Khamenei's role in the country and to answer the question whether there could have been an attempt to remove him, we must go back to 1979, when the Islamic Revolution won in Iran.

Iran's Supreme Leader “Rahbar” (Rahbar-e Moazzam aka Faqih, who is also His Serene Highness and Lordship of the Time) is the Head of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Only he determines the general direction of the development of the country, its internal and external policies.

He also appoints heads of law enforcement agencies, propaganda organs (radio and television) and 6 out of the 12 members of the Guardian Council of the Constitution.

Note: Council of Guardians - (Shora-ye Negahban-e) – a special over-parliamentary organ of supreme power in Iran. Consists of 12 members - six representatives of the higher clergy appointed by Rahbar and six lawyers, appointed by the Parliament (Majlis).

The main function of the Council is to check draft laws for compliance with the Constitution and the laws of Islam. The Council approves all candidates for key positions in the country, including the president, members of Parliament, members of the Council of Experts, government ministers. The Council has the right to veto any bill and to amend the Constitution of Iran. The Head of the Council is appointed by the Council of Experts.

Since 1988, the Council has been headed by Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.

The Council of Experts (Council of Elders, the Assembly of Experts, “Shora-ye hobregan”) - consists of 83 clerics (mujtahids), elected by the people of Iran to eight years' term. Their powers include the appointment and removal (if there are good reasons) of the Supreme Leader, elected for life, solution of other questions important for the country. The Council meets for a week twice a year. All meetings of the Council are private. To date, the Council of Experts is not monolithic in its composition, political preferences, and so on. Among the members of the structure some, due to their positions, have a direct influence on the formation of foreign and domestic policy, while others have little influence on decision-making and do not actually have the decisive vote when voting in the Council. At the moment A. Khamenei manages to successfully control and use these contradictions to preserve his power and position.

The Constitution of Iran does not define strict demands to members of the Council, as the Council itself solves these issues.

Head of the Council of Experts of the 4th convocation — Ayatollah Mehdavi Kani.



Supreme Leader of Iran, Imam Khomeini R.
Supreme Leader of Iran, Imam Khomeini R.


According Imam Khomeini's theory of “velayat-e faqih”, successfully implemented immediately after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in February 1979, and enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “Islamic government” takes the form of the republic, based on the power of Fakih.

Fakih is the supreme interpreter of God's commandments, at the same time he carries out the highest control over the secular state power, Army and Security Forces. Over Fakih himself there is only God and the “hidden” 12th Imam Mahdi, expected by the faithful as the Messiah.

During the confrontation for a new Constitution between opponents and followers of the of Khomeini's theory, the main goal was to establish the principle of “velayat-e faqih” that would give the clergy the constitutional right to govern the country. In early December 1979 by a majority vote the Constitution was adopted.

So, Khomeini's doctrine is a traditionalist modified theory of theocratic rule, and in fact, the combination of the titles of Rahbar, “valius -e faqih” and “imam” allowed Ali Khamenei to establish an authoritarian regime in Iran.

The main motives of politicians' actions was an obvious deterioration in the health condition of A. Khamenei, and, consequently, a partial loss of his ability to effectively lead the state, as well as the increased discontent among clerics and political elite of many political and socio-economic decisions of the Spiritual Leader.

According to Ali Hashemi-Rafsanjani's plan, the highest spiritual authority in the country must go to the Council of Experts. This would allow to radically change the model of the state government, that is to move from a theocratic authoritarianism to a more democratic system of collegial running the country by members of the Council of Experts.

According to Western diplomats, Hashemi-Rafsanjani's failure can be explained by the fact that for removing was needed a more important reason than even based speculations about the health of the Leader. Besides, removing of Rahbar without a serious motivation contains a threat of destruction of the principle of “velayat-e faqih,” the main element of the system of statehood of Iran that could be perceived by law enforcement agencies and all Muslims as “treason”. Such actions could be not accepted by the conservative majority of the society, which, in its turn, can give A. Khamenei carte blanche to eliminate traitors and hostile elements by the IRGC forces and other security agencies.

At the same time it should be noted that the lack of information in the media about trying to remove from power of the current Spiritual Leader and the absence of any visible effects for Hashemi-Rafsanjani, according to experts and analysts, may be due to A. Khamenei's reluctance to attract public attention to the issue of his physical condition, as well as to his political stability in the country during the country's approach to signing of a landmark Agreement with the West on the nuclear issue, scheduled under positive circumstances, on July 20 of this year. In case if the uprising had been suppressed through the use of means of security forces, this would have not just caused a considerable resonance in the Iranian society, but would also have jeopardized the prospect of reaching a compromise between Iran and the West.

There is also logic in the above mentioned motives for reticence of this fact by the Iranian leadership. However, in the nearest or in a near future, we may expect another attempt of A. Khamenei's political opponents to capture the highest post. At this, as a signal will serve, most likely, confirmed information about the health deterioration or death of Rahbar.

So, all of the above-mentioned allows with a high degree of probability to speak about a failed attempt of peaceful removal from office of the country's leader.