To sum up what is happening in Iran today, particularly after the Supreme Leader’s speech at Friday prayer, we can say with confidence that the battle for power has descended to the streets. This is Ali Khamenei’s fatal error that might cost the regime and the position of the Guardian Jurist.
The speech delivered by the Supreme Leader was clearly threatening towards Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi and others, holding them responsible for the violence that has occurred in Iran recently knowing that they have never incited violence before. This indicates that the next few days will be even worse.
By giving such a speech, Khamenei has become both the ruler and the opposition in this battle. Instead of being the leader of the Islamic Republic, he has become the leader of a current in Iran. By saying “the fighting on the streets is wrong and I want it to end,” the Supreme Leader has put himself in confrontation with the people. There is no chance of rescuing the regime’s image and saving face. Now one single protest will be considered working against the Guardian Jurist himself, and therefore against the regime. The grave error Khamenei committed was that he allowed himself to become a “part” in a moment of collective anger, especially when he said, “Some men are more capable of serving the country than others.”
So instead of rising above it all, or remaining external to the conflict to preserve his status as a judge and to safeguard the regime’s prestige, he is now involved [in the conflict] thus putting the entire regime at risk.
Without doubt, Khamenei’s speech serves in the interest of the Iranian opposition, particularly Hashemi Rafsanjani who has been waging a silent battle against the Supreme Leader for many years; a battle that has now gone public. The ball now is in Rafsanjani’s court.
Renewed protests and Rafsanjani’s silence, which was expected, will be a dilemma for the Iranian regime. The Iranian authorities will either oppress the people, as indicated by the Supreme Leader, or turn to Rafsanjani to pacify the public. The latter will come with a heavy price and might even fail in its task. The level of confrontation is now very high, especially after some protesters lost their lives. This means that there is bound to be more anger, not to mention that any violence against those who take to the streets will be blamed on the Supreme Leader.
We are now facing a real violent battle in Iran. One of the two rivals must back down as the stakes are too high and there seems to be no way out through compromise. The only solution is in the hands of Khamenei but after his Friday speech, it is clear that there is no room for a draw in this battle in Iran. What would have been seen as a pragmatic approach or as prioritizing national interest will now be seen as a great loss. The regime’s reputation has been tarnished at home and abroad, as the mask of democracy has begun to slip. It is now plain to see that the entire population of Iran is being subjected to the tyranny of the state just as it is now apparent to the international community that the regime in Tehran does not enjoy internal consensus.
It is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming days; but it seems the tide is high in Iran, so much so that it is out of control. The Supreme Leader is trying to sail through these rough waters. We will have to wait and see what will happen to the Iranian ship.