Extremism and repression are key to Khamenei’s succession in Iran

Three analysts and a pro-reform official told Reuters that by tightening restrictions on women’s rights, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is strengthening his credentials as a hardline, and perhaps the possibility that Iran’s next supreme leader will succeed Ali Khamenei, too. if that comes at the cost of provoking mass protests and rumors The split between many Iranians and the ruling elite.

A year after Raisi’s election, which marked the end of an era seen by many Iranians as more pragmatic and tolerant, his government’s strict veiling in the weeks leading up to Mahsa Amini’s death in custody on September 16 led to a complete reassertion of hardliners’ influence.

And now, as tens of thousands of protesters call for the fall of the Islamic Republic in In response to Amini’s death, hardliners are consolidating their power, advocating massive use of force against protests, even though political issues are firmly in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Analysts and sources close to the decision-making process in Iran believe that Khamenei, 83, is determined to support the pillars of the Islamic Republic, which he has led since the death of its founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1989.

Iranian communists, foreign and religious experts see Raisi as a rival candidate to succeed Khamenei, even if he has not expressed this ambition. The Supreme Leader has not adopted a successor, and there are others in the arena as well, in particular Mojtaba, the son of Khamenei.

“Raisi truly believes in the supreme leader’s list of revolutionary priorities. He is an uncompromising believer in a stricter application of social and political restrictions, “a pro-reform official said, speaking in condition of anonymity for political considerations.

“I am not aware of his personal ambitions to become the next Supreme Leader, but whether or not he happens, let me point out that my own president is an anti-Western cleric who does not believe. in a freer society, “he said.

Reuters was not in able to contact officials in my main offices and Khamenei for comment.

Raisi, who is under the patronage of Khamenei, was elected president in June 2021, in a race to bring all branches of the state under extremist control, after years of more pragmatic rule under former president Hassan Rouhani.

Raisi enjoys the confidence of the Revolutionary Guards, an uncompromising military force that the state has used to suppress political unrest for decades and seen by Iranians as an influential factor in choosing Khamenei’s successor.

After Khamenei appointed him to the post of chief of the judiciary, a prominent position in 2019, Raisi was subject to US sanctions a few months later, for the role he is believed to have played in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Iran has never acknowledged the killings. Asked about the killing of political prisoners in At a press conference in June 2021, Raisi replied that the judge or prosecutor who defended the safety of the people should be commended.

hijab and chastity

Raisi’s July order that authorities must enforce Iran’s “veil and chastity law” led to further restrictions such as barring women from entering in some banks, government offices and some public transport.

On September 13, Tehran’s moral police arrested Amini, an Iranian Kurd, for “inappropriate clothing”. Three days later, Amini died in a hospital in the capital after falling in coma. Referring to the day in which Amini has lost consciousness in custody, the coroner said he regained consciousness briefly but that “CPR was not effective in the critical first minute, resulting in brain damage.”

The family denied that Mahsa, 22, had heart problems.

Women took off their veils and set it on fire during protests, one of the boldest popular uprisings since the 1979 revolution and a symbolic blow to the Islamic Republic, which sought to impose conservative dress codes on women. in public.

“It is true that the caliphate has always been in the background of Iranian politics, but I think the strong emphasis on the veil, which began in earnest quest’summer, is a reflection of the unifying forces of the hardliners,’ said Henry Roma of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

The strict application of the wearing of the veil in the Raisi era ends not only the Rouhani era, but also the presidency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known for his toughness on many issues but who resisted the strict application of the dress code.

“Khamenei is preparing. He wants to leave a legacy and his legacy must support the Islamic Republic, which results in the strengthening of its internal fabric,” said Cornelius Adebehr, of the Carnegie Endowment. for International Peace.

The protests prompted some officials to raise questions about the mandatory headscarf policy. Interestingly, however, Ali Larijani, Khamenei’s adviser, wondered if the police should enforce the veil. But the hardliners remain on their positions.

Interior Minister Ahmed Wahidi, former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, accused the protesters of presenting “bad scenes” in name of women’s rights, stating that the protesters see “freedom in the nudity and indecency of women”.

Kisra Arabi, of the Iran Program Initiative at the Tony Blair Institute, said that the Revolutionary Guards should play an important role in choosing a successor, because the next supreme leader will rely more on the support of the Revolutionary Guards in the face of the anti – government opposition.

“My boss is out of his mind”

It is likely that the Revolutionary Guards will play an important role if Iran decides to crack down in full way the riots in more than 200 people have already been killed, according to human rights groups.

But three analysts and an official told Reuters in September that the succession issue added a complication to leadership thinking about the extent of the crackdown to follow, because the onset of the riots coincided with rumors of Khamenei’s ill health.

The ruling establishment – a system that combines religious authority with an elected president and parliament – has been concerned about succession-related maneuvers even as it balances security policy.

Analysts and the official said in September that some well-informed sources fear that using more force will expose the divisions within its ranks (the ruling establishment) and fuel more unrest, which could be unsustainable. in such a delicate moment.

Protesters expressed their anger at Raisi himself during his visit to a Tehran university this month (October), when female students sang: “My president is out of his mind” and “The mullahs are out of his mind. “.

Echoing Khamenei’s statements, Raisi has repeatedly blamed the West for the unrest, accused US President Joe Biden of wreaking “chaos, terror and destruction”, and cited Khomeini’s description of the United States as the “Great Satan”.

Under Raisi, months of indirect talks between Iran and the US stalled in Vienna to save the 2015 nuclear deal. Both sides say Tehran and Washington must make political decisions to resolve the remaining issues.

Sanctions on Iranian oil continue to put pressure on the Iranian economy, causing the currency to drop to levels record.

“Raisi takes such an extreme stance on women’s rights because she knows that’s what Khamenei wants,” said Meir Javidanfar, professor of Iran at Richman University. in Israel.

She added that “following Khamenei’s approach in her position on the issue of women will keep it in race to succeed Khamenei “.