"For all the attention the Western media give to Ahmadinejad's foreign policy pronouncements, the reality is that his effective influence is limited to domestic issues. The citizens of Tehran I spoke with, from every walk of life, understood this and were genuinely perplexed as to why we in the West treat Ahmadinejad as if he were a genuine head of state. "The man has no real power," a former Revolutionary Guard member told me. "The true power in Iran resides with the Supreme Leader." The real authority is indeed the Ayatollah Sayeed Ali Khamenei, successor to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
According to the Iranian Constitution, the Supreme Leader has absolute authority over all matters pertaining to national security, including the armed forces, the police and the Revolutionary Guard. Only the Supreme Leader can declare war. In this regard, all aspects of Iran's nuclear program are controlled by Khamenei, and Ahmadinejad has no bearing on the issue. Curiously, while the Western media have replayed Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel statements repeatedly, very little attention has been paid to the Supreme Leader's pronouncement--in the form of a fatwa, or religious edict--that Iran rejects outright the acquisition of nuclear weapons, or to the efforts made by the Supreme Leader in 2003 to reach an accommodation with the United States that offered peace with Israel. While Ahmadinejad plays to the Iranian street with his inflammatory rhetoric, the true authority in Iran has been attempting to navigate a path of moderation.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps remains very much an enigmatic entity to most Western observers. Born from the tumult of the revolution that swept the Shah from power in 1979, the Revolutionary Guard was the primary defender of the Islamic Republic during its infancy, serving as the country's first line of defense after the 1980 Iraqi invasion and against anti-regime forces, in particular the guerrillas of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen (MEK). The Revolutionary Guard also served as defender of the Shiite faith abroad, playing a pivotal role in the formation of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon after the 1982 Israeli invasion.
Many of the actions of the guard have been cited by the United States as evidence that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. The guard members I spoke with reject this characterization. "We did some pretty terrible things in our early years, but we were fighting for our national survival," one veteran member told me. "The MEK was waging a war in our cities, ambushing our forces, assassinating our politicians and killing our citizens with car bombs. We had to crush them, either in Iran or out. But if we kill an MEK operative in France or Germany, we become terrorists. If America kills an Al Qaeda operative in another country, you are counterterrorists. This makes no sense. We have never targeted or attacked Americans or American interests. We condemned the 9/11 attacks as a crime against Islam and a crime against humanity. And yet we are reviled as terrorists, or even worse, co-conspirators with Al Qaeda. Doesn't America understand that we oppose Al Qaeda and all it stands for? Do you not know that the teachings of Sunni Wahhabism are anathema to the teachings of the Shia faith?"
The alleged Iranian threat espoused by Bush is based on fear, and arises from a combination of ignorance and ideological inflexibility. The path that the United States is currently embarked on regarding Iran is a path that will lead to war. (Indeed, there are numerous unconfirmed reports that the United States has already begun covert military operations inside Iran, including overflights by pilotless drones and recruitment and training of MEK, Kurdish and Azeri guerrillas.) Such a course of action would make even the historic blunder of the Iraq invasion pale by comparison."
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Ahmadinejad has no real power
Posted by lukery at 11/05/2006 12:54:00 PM