Monday, Dec. 22nd 2008

Iran’s Presidential Politics – Which IRGC Commander do You Prefer?

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran is profiled as a likely opponent to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Boston Globe. The article describes Ghalibaf as a more modern, gentler replacement for Ahmadinejad:

As mayor of a city where Calvin Klein ads compete with portraits of war heroes and clerics, [Ghalibaf] is fashioning himself as a candidate of gradual change, who can appeal to younger voters while retaining enough conservative bona fides from his days as soldier to satisfy the powerful religious elite.

The reference to his days as a soldier is a bit misleading. As the article mentions, Ghalibaf was more than a soldier. Ghalibaf served not in the Iranian Army but instead with the IRGC. His last assignment: leader of the IRGC Air Force.

Analysis: Articles like the Boston Globe profile of Ghalibaf promote a false understanding of Iranian governance. Power in Iran resides with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC. The Supreme Leader’s power includes control over the IRGC and the authority to determine which candidates are eligible to stand for election. The anticipated contest in the June 12, 2009 election between the “progressive” Tehran mayor and the confrontational president would not be a chance for a new day in Iran. An election featuring Ghalibaf as the principal opponent to Ahmadinejad would ensure that a senior IRGC leader would remain as Iran’s President. The same IRGC controls Iran’s rocket force and the nuclear program that many fear seek to equip those rockets with nuclear weapons.

Additionally, Ghalibaf may have competition in his quest to replace Ahmadinejad. Although Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has stated he will not run in the June 12 election, other candidates have already announced their intention to run and some speculate that Mohammad Khatami will run as a reformist candidate.

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