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In my last diary, I made an accounting of Iran's demographics, upon which the chances for a double to one victory for Ahmadinejad (preventing a run-off) seem impossible.

Herein is why, when Director Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council stated that Ahmadinejad "had a plan" and caught Mousavi and Karroubi off-guard, his explanation contained deeper levels of truth than the media reports to you.

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We've reduced our discourse to a vision of Persia divided by two camps: one defending religion and another liberty. I watch the videos breathlessly, too, and feel my heart well up as the youth demand their rights. But that Mir Hossein Mousavi's history is so contradictory to this over-simplication goes unnoticed by too many foreigners. Mousavi is a right-winger: "a business-oriented" one, I wrote in the last diary. So to describe him as a moderate means only that he is moderately rightist. Perhaps even pragmatically. Colin Powell is not a centrist, and nor is Mousavi. This clarifies why this movement is "no longer about Mousavi".

Strictly speaking, ideology is only one factor in the divide. Ahmadinejad is right-wing too, yes, and although his administration's reduced unemployment to a mediocre 9.6% from an maximum of 12.5%, he's done so feeding the country's abysmal problem with inflation, and ruined the economy by keeping it so vulnerable to the oil bubble. Politically he is stronger with the rural poor through his populist economic agenda. However, this is not an economic precedent the rich and middle-class Tehranians and their countrymen in the hard-hit cities want to follow, and Mousavi's more business-oriented posture drew them like a snowball down a powdered slope. As for culture wars, Ahmadinejad's social conservatism certainly wasn't going to help. That popular culture in Iran is actually deeply secular with its consumer goods, profoundly impacting, politicized rock music and the contraband substance parties is a secret everyone knows. But while this helps explain Mousavi's appeal (the anti-Ahmadinejad) to the young and secular, it doesn't explain the real heart of why Mousavi was conned and nearly silenced.

There is a conspiracy against Mousavi that's group-oriented yet not religious. Author and Iranian scholar Reza Aslan explains it is the Pasdaran, or intelligence-wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) which is at the heart of this intrigue. I've consistantly fought against those claiming that Iran is just "ruled by the mullahs" because, as Aslan's said on TV, this is a simplification--the same kind of lazy mythos that explains our attitudes about Russia (an empire ruled by Putin) and erases the many competing clusters in the web of power. The mullahs may have the final say in official matters, but it was Pasdaran that got Ahmadinejad elected. At the top of the official pyramid commonly portrayed, there may be clerics but as Aslan explains, the Pasdaran occupy all different levels beneath upon which the "face" of Iran rests:

In 2005, the Pasdaran threw its support behind Ahmadinejad, a former member of the organization, and Ahmadinejad returned the favor by placing high-ranking Pasdaran members in important ministerial and ambassadorial posts in his administration. This was a complete departure from previous presidents—both conservatives and reformists—who went out of their way to keep the military out of the political realm. Today more than one-third of Iran’s parliament, or Majlis, are Pasdaran members, while the organization itself is thought to control nearly 30% of Iran’s economy through its oil, gas, real estate, and construction subsidiaries (the Pasdaran’s net worth is estimated to be between $12 billion and $15 billion).
Ayatollah Rafsanjani's personal enrichment from the coffers of public office adds another myth to the political culture of Iran. While true enough in and of itself, Rafsanjani's finances--at least one kossack fantasized about Rafsanjani bankrupting the country if he wished--are clearly countered somewhat by the big picture. Again the Pasdaran actors show up!

They are a conspiracy much like the Russian military, (is this some kind of endemic feature in Asia?) with different talents, personal backgrounds and ethnicities, they can quickly and effectively fill different niches in the elite, providing a stream of information to each other and empowering each other collectively. Small wonder that the ballots in areas have disappeared, and that the "results" were announced within hours, rather than the three days demanded by protocol. This is the meaning of Ahmadinejad--a secret government within. While Russian president Vladimir Putin is a former spy who weighed constantly the military officers against the oligarchs to remain above, (somewhat similarly in Pakistan with Musharref) Ahmadinejad owes somebody, he is co-opted:

It is the Pasdaran that controls Ahmadinejad, not the mullahs. Indeed, it was precisely fear of the Pasdaran’s rising political and economic influence that led to the “anybody but Ahmadinejad” coalition we saw in this election, wherein young, leftist students and popular reformists like Mohammad Khatami joined together with conservative mullahs and "centrists" like Rafsanjani to push back against what they consider to be the rampant militarization of Iranian politics. There is a genuine fear among these groups that Iran is beginning to resemble Egypt or Pakistan, countries in which the military controls the apparatus of government.
From the mullahs point of view, this is not really ideology but the dynamics of power. Yes, the mullahs are threatened by this very civil unrest, but they are also fueling it, consciously, because their choices seem to be a more-markedly democratized Islamic democracy or very diffused power. As the Renaissance popes were happy to do business with depraved aristocrats and decadents like Michaelangelo to advance their image, glory and maintain the Papal States, so too are the Iranian clerics, like aspiring CEOs and sitting presidents, concerned with power above all else.

Of course, the one funny aspect of it is that Khamenei is so petty he'd stand on the side of Ahmadinejad out of resentment. An ancient grudge against Mousavi going back to Mousavi's past as Prime Minister during Iran-Iraq. Khamenei's in stark contrast to much of the clerics here, who also disapprove of Ahmadinejad's offensive religious positions and his novel (and expansive) use of presidential power. Perhaps neither Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are particularly useful to Khamenei, and since the grudge between Khamenei and third party-candidate Mehdi Karroubi over the latter's ousting from the 2005 presidential race hasn't healed, Ahmadinejad functions as a path of least resistance.

Unfortunately for Khamenei, if Pasdaran's counter-counter-coup succeeds he may be only biding his time. Aslan is "convinced" this is a gradual military takeover, which could transform Iran into another Egypt. There, religion isn't pushed so much from on-high at Pres. Hosni Mubarak's palace, but encouraged and enforced by civilian radicals and terrorists Unfortunately, this could be much more dangerous for countries like Israel and Iraq. The mullahs never much appreciated Ahmadinejad's antagonism towards outsiders, and have tried to avoid a repeat of the devastation that conflict's brought before.

Our bias in recognizing this reality lies in the history of the Iran-Iraq war. The U.S and Saudi Arabia (one of the most brutal countries on the planet) funded and armed Iraq to the teeth in order to squash the fledging Islamic Republic of Iran. As partisans, we recognize the role Reagan and Rumsfeld had in Halabja and hundreds of thousands of dead Iranians. What we don't remember is that Saudi Arabia, our ally, was mortified by the thought of Islamic republican movements spreading to the Arab world, and we too for fear of our precious oil falling out of the hands of our dictator friends. For the minority of powerful Iranians who remember these times, they foster vivid fear, and prompted the circling of the wagons and the repression Iran's known for. Today, the Pasdaran is also not looking to encourage the democratization of Iran. Paradoxically, the mullahs' power may be "dead" as Setrak put it, but even worse things may happen should the Greens fail.

"For better or worse, the new power base in Iran is the Pasdaran" -- Reza Aslan
UPDATE: I wrote this last night around 10 PM. I see now that the diary on the rec list confirms this analysis. Setrak's diary about the republic being dead is wrong, for reasons I've layed out.
Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Nulwee on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 02:11 AM PDT.

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