Clerics and Commanders

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Clerics and Commanders

Besides turban-tipped religious zealots, who else is stalking the halls of power in Tehran?

Iran has a foreign policy with bite. A new trend in Tehran’s halls of power promises to make the head of this viper even more venomous.

When it comes to real power in Iran, a small, frightening group of men holds all the keys. At the top of the hierarchy is a bespectacled, beturbaned man with a white beard, Ali Khamenei, who occupies the humble office of “supreme leader” of everything. Subtle it’s not, but Khamenei’s title accurately describes his enormous powers. Even this month’s Majlis (legislative) election results are technically not legal unless Supreme Leader Khamenei approves. The supreme leader personally picks half of the 12-man Council of Guardians (with the other six being elected by the parliament from among candidates nominated by the judicial head, who in turn is appointed by the supreme leader). In addition to that, the supreme leader controls the entire executive branch, domestic policy, foreign policy, intelligence agencies, security services, leaders of the judiciary, and state media networks. The supreme leader is the ultimate commander of the army and the even more powerful Revolutionary Guard. Khamenei does this largely through a couple thousand representatives positioned throughout the government who can overrule any decision on behalf of the supreme leader—that’s what is so supreme about him.

So what does he do with all that power?

If you guessed “nourish freedom,” think again. For the 2008 Majlis election, Khamenei and the Council of Guardians disqualified almost one third of the registered candidates for such alleged reasons as filing their paperwork late, having a bad reputation in their neighborhood, lacking a suitable educational background, and failing to practice or believe in Islam sufficiently. In short, it weeds out its staunchest opposition before campaigning even begins.

International organizations have found Iranian elections to be neither free nor fair, with voters able to choose only between candidates who support the regime and candidates who support the regime.

Although some reformists have been allowed to run in the past, the bottom line is, if you want any kind of real power in Iran, you have to be in lockstep with the incumbent of all incumbents and his regime.

Enter the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The irgc, originally formed to support Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his ideology in 1979, gained prominence in the protracted Iran-Iraq war. Now, thanks to its fierce loyalty to the regime’s hard-liners, it is a full-fledged military force with its own ground forces, air force, navy, special forces and intelligence. It controls Iran’s missile forces, and specializes in asymmetrical warfare, assassinations and other terrorist activities. It receives massive state funding and controls key elements of the nation’s economy.

irgc veteran commanders maintain the informal networks and command structures they developed in battle. They are committed to the supreme leader’s conservative ideology, have the same views about Iran’s goal to dominate the region, and see the same external threats. And they have begun infiltrating Tehran’s halls of power.

In 2004, former irgc members won more than a third of the legislative seats. In the months leading up to this year’s March 14 parliamentary elections, the regime called for Revolutionary Guards and Basij militiamen to run for office to crowd out what few reformists were allowed to run. One ayatollah declared, “The idea that the Guards and the Basij as military forces should not intervene in politics … is the idea of the enemies of God ….”

While 70 of the 290 seats will not be allocated until a runoff election later this spring, Amir Taheri, writing for the New York Post, reports that the vote tally shows that the irgc could end up with 70 percent of the parliamentary seats.

The irgc fielded candidates in three factions. The largest of these looks to Ahmadinejad as its standard-bearer. Having entered the race under the label of “fundamentalists,” the pro-Ahmadinejad faction is likely to end up with 100 out of the 290 seats. The second faction, led by Tehran Mayor Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf, an irgc general, may end up with 30 seats. A third faction, sponsored by former irgc Cmdr. Gen. Mohsen Rezai and backed by former negotiator on the nuclear issue Ali Larijani, is slated to win 20.At least half of the 40 men elected as independents are also former or active members of the irgc or security services linked to it and therefore likely to side with their fellow military men on crucial issues. …In the next Majlis, the number of members with irgc backgrounds will be twice as large as that of mullahs.

Guardsmen have found post-irgc work as Iran’s new political elites. They are also gaining control of the state police, the Ministries of Defense and Intelligence, national radio and television, and management of the electoral process. In the process, Guard commanders have condemned and intimidated reformist candidates.

Iran’s most visible irgc success story is none other than President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose résumé includes involvement in the 1979 takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran; interrogator at the notorious Evin Prison; irgc commander during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war; officer in the “Jerusalem Force,” which carries out intelligence, sabotage, terrorist and assassination plots; and involvement in militias responsible for disciplining civilians for Islamic conduct and dress code violations.

Men like Ahmadinejad, hardened to civilian suffering after eight years of bloody warfare, bombardment of civilian targets and food rationing in the 1980s, are virtually immune to comparatively feeble international pressures employed by the West, including non-binding resolutions, coercion, sanctions and threats to take hard stances at the negotiation table.

As the ayatollahs clear the way for irgc commanders to fill Tehran’s power offices, Iran now offers the worst of all worlds: intractable religious zealotry, militant control of government institutions, refusal to compromise, state and military-backed terrorist networks, and fanaticism bordering on the suicidal.

What is life like under the increasingly tighter grip of Iran’s clerics and commanders? According to the UN General Assembly, it means arrests without warrants; lack of judicial independence, access to counsel and fair public trials; severe restrictions on religious, speech, press, assembly, movement and privacy freedoms; incitement to anti-Semitism; human trafficking; imprisonment for political views; violence and legal and societal discrimination against women and minorities; disappearances; torture, including flogging and amputations; hangings; and summary executions without due process, including of political prisoners and minors.

Khamenei and his super-clerics have a crushing grip on Iran, a grip that can only come from the transcendent force of religion and brutal crackdowns against dissent. But even more significant, they are using that iron grip to wield power on a much larger scale.

Khamenei, like his predecessor, Khomeini, has helped build Iran into the world’s most powerful state sponsor of terrorism. Since Khomeini’s 1979 revolution, Islamist terrorism has been a legitimate, integral part of Iranian foreign policy; it is the means by which Iran reaches beyond its borders to influence and control the region. Tehran’s tentacles extend to insurgents in Iraq, Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, Hamas terrorists in Israel, and, yes, al Qaeda terrorists all over the place. If a politician, cleric, leader or ordinary citizen—inside or outside the country—is causing Tehran a headache, relief is only a car bomb away.

Terrorism has enabled Iran to punch far above its economic, political or military weight. The tactic’s asymmetrical nature, backed by the ideology and resources of the iron-fisted government, has forced the world to take Iran seriously—and that doesn’t even begin to address its nuclear weapons program.

You can do a lot with a despotic stranglehold on an entire country. And that is exactly what Iran’s leaders are consolidating right now.

The Bible is not silent on modern world events, and it describes a “king of the south” that will rise to global power and violently confront a power to the north.

The first lightning strikes of this perfect storm with the north, or a German-led Europe, have already flashed.

Editor in chief Gerald Flurry first identified the king of the south as radical Islam, headed by Iran, in 1994. Since then, a mountain of evidence has come to light proving that Tehran is emerging as the head of a multi-nation ideological power bloc capable of challenging the declining United States as well as the rising European Union.

In order to rise rapidly as a political and military threat dominating an entire region and ultimately becoming one of the world’s most significant power players, Iran will utilize its malevolent, unchallengeable government’s crushing, python-like hold on national power to violently push at other nations.

To find out how, when and where radical Islam will explode, read The King of the South.