Some Inside Iran Theocracy Fear Rising Isolation

London -- Iran’s defeated presidential contender and current head of the State Expediency Council, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, warned of “serious dangers” threatening the theocratic regime in his first Friday prayers sermon following last week’s election.

“Let me tell you without any further elaboration that we are facing serious problems and if forces loyal to the Islamic Republic and the revolution become divided, serious dangers will threaten us”, Rafsanjani said.

After his shock defeat to hard-line former Revolutionary Guards commander Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani bitterly complained that systematic vote-rigging by “organised forces” had altered election results.

Rafsanjani’s comments were seen by some analysts as a reflection of serious concern among some senior clerics that the Islamic Republic has emerged from the elections as weaker and more vulnerable, with an ultra-conservative holding the presidency.

“They see Ahmadinejad as no more than a marionette in [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei’s hands”, Simon Bailey of the London-based Gulf Intelligence Monitor said. “They are worried by Ahmadinejad’s lousy start on the international scene. Questions over his involvement in the 1979 hostage-taking, the Austrian government’s investigation of his links to the 1989 assassination of a prominent Iranian dissident in Vienna, strong comments by [United States President George] Bush, [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair and [Italian Prime Minister Silvio] Berlusconi on the Iranian election are causing a lot of anxiety among some senior officials in Tehran”.

Hatef News, a website run by Rafsanjani’s son, Mehdi, wrote in an analysis on the future of nuclear talks between the European Union and Iran that “the election of Ahmadinejad as president has anguished the world, which is not familiar with him”.

“The world has the impression that Ahmadinejad is an extremist conservative who will create obstacles in the nuclear talks with the West”, the website added.

Hamid Besharat, an Iranian political analyst based in Dubai, said in a telephone interview that Rafsanjani and some of the senior clerics not allied with Khamenei are deeply worried over the future of the entire regime.

“They are very afraid that if the regime becomes increasingly isolated, an orange revolution ? l’iranienne could become feasible. But they’re not expressing their fears loudly, because they are afraid of the Revolutionary Guards. They have to tread very carefully”.

Despite these concerns, Khamenei and his entourage seem determined to pursue their hard-line policies. The Iranian government even seems to be preparing the public for possible breakdown of nuclear talks in autumn. In a report from London, Iran’s official news agency IRNA warned on Sunday that European governments were “aiming to blame Iran in preparing for a likely breakdown in their negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme”.