For Iran’s spies, a putsch

For Iran’s spies, a putsch

The political situation in Iran remains murky, to put it mildly, in the aftermath of June’s turbulent election. But some clues can be found in the recent purge of the country’s intelligence service.

The turmoil suggests that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is pushing to tighten his control of the regime, even at the cost of alienating some powerful fellow conservatives. But the decisive voice remains the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His legitimacy has taken a hit — and he’s riding a tiger in trying to control Ahmadinejad — but he’s still No. 1.

The head of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, a ferocious cleric named Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei who is nicknamed “the viper” by some Iranians, was dismissed in late July. Four top deputies in the ministry were also sacked in what one U.S. analyst likened to a Stalinist purge. In the process, Ahmadinejad made some potentially dangerous enemies.

The intelligence putsch showed Ahmadinejad “moving to control” the government, says Mark Fowler, a former CIA officer who now runs the “Persia House” consulting service for Booz Allen Hamilton. He says of the ousted intelligence officers: “These are not wallflowers. These are tough guys. They have buddies who are spread throughout the system. They could cause some problems” for Ahmadinejad. [continued…]

A green day for Iran

International Jerusalem Day (Rooze jahaniye Qods) is observed in Iran on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. This year it falls on 18 September. Jerusalem Day was designated by the late Ayatollah Khomeini as a day of support for Palestinians and opposition against Israel. It is a day when the government issues permits for hundreds of thousands of Iranians to pour on to the streets and demonstrate.

Some attend due to genuine support for Palestinians. Others take part because of government pressure. This is especially true of civil servants. Some fear that failure to attend could damage their job security and prospects. When it comes to the number of demonstrators, there is no limit on how many people can come out to the streets. In fact, as far as the government is concerned, the more the merrier.

This is in direct contrast to demonstrations held by reformists. The Ahmadinejad administration, using violence and intimidation, has done its utmost to limit such protests, if not eradicate them entirely. This has forced many of Iran’s demonstrators to come up with new ways of voicing their opposition, using seemingly legal means. One popular method is going on top of their roofs to shout “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest). This is not against the law. In fact, this is one of the methods of protest used by those who took part in the 1979 revolution. [continued…]

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