Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hasn’t been seen in public for a couple of weeks, and he notably missed his annual speech at “Pasdar Day,” devoted to the Revolutionary Guards Corps. He had made that event a personal obligation for more than twenty years. (Here he is at last year’s commemoration of the IRGC.) He also missed the annual commemoration of Imam Ali’s birthday, one of the central events on the Shi’ite calendar.
The folks who claim to be in the know about such things would have us believe that the opposition to the Iranian regime has been crushed, and that Khamenei and his henchmen are firmly in control of the country. But he seems to know better, and he just published a poem (really!) lamenting the failure of the 12th Imam to reappear and to make everything wonderful by slaughtering the enemies of the Shi’a, etc. Maybe he thinks his regime hasn’t done enough to get the Mahdi out of his well in Iran, and he has issued a call to all and sundry to prepare themselves for the End of Days.
The supreme leader, in other words, is in a lousy mood, and he’s got every reason to be in a funk. The natural gas pipeline to Turkey has been sabotaged yet again, and the regime is scratching for all the foreign currency it can find. And two online polls show the Iranians are not at all enthusiastic about the regime’s nuclear project.
The first appeared on the site of the national TV station, and had to do with sanctions. Respondents were asked what they thought Iran should do and were given three options: give up uranium enrichment, close the Straits of Hormuz, or fight back against the West. By early evening, nearly two-thirds of the responses said “stop enrichment,” and the poll was yanked.
The second poll, launched after the official survey was shut down, appeared on the Facebook page of the very popular Manoto TV. It also asked about sanctions and enrichment:
Asked if they favored resisting the sanctions to defend the country’s “right to nuclear power,” 78 percent said “no.”Asked if the regime should give up nuclear enrichment in order to avoid the sanctions, a rousing 74 percent said “yes.” And 74 percent also approved “giving up nuclear enrichment in order to avoid the sanctions.”
These results, for which I am indebted to Potkin Azarmehr, are even worse for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad than the official ones. They are certainly not what we would call “scientific,” but keep in mind that Facebook in Iran is closely monitored by the regime, and anyone who responds online is running the risk of seeing Revolutionary Guards at their door in the middle of the night. But, like those who clicked in on national television’s questionnaire, they want to declare their opposition to the nuclear program, to demonstrate how seriously they are responding to sanctions, and to voice their dissent against regime policies.
Meanwhile, Khamenei’s misery was intensified by various international slaps: the German government’s complaint when an Iranian diplomat reportedly harassed a ten-year-old girl; the Saudi kingdom’s cutoff of visas for Iranian pilgrims; and the formal closings of the British Embassy in Tehran and the Iranian Embassy in London. Also: the extradition of an Iranian terrorist suspect from Malaysia to Thailand; the arrest of two suspected Iranian terrorists in Kenya; and the announcement from British security officials that they fear a revival of Iranian-sponsored terror.
No surprise, then, that the security forces are lashing out — even executing men accused of drinking alcohol — and the war of all against all at the highest levels of the regime continued apace with the arrest of the president’s spiritual advisor. According to Mashregh News, Abbas Ghaffari, spiritual advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai have been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Ghaffari was given five years for blasphemy, two years for insulting Imam Khomeini and the supreme leader, and one year for propaganda against the regime — as well as 99 lashes. If you read the bill of particulars, it sounds very much as if this man of faith was a practitioner of occult rites. Some of his accusers said Ghaffari was “a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds” who had “invoked spirits and djinns.”
Nor should anyone be surprised to see the regime — more and more represented by the Revolutionary Guards Corps — flexing its muscles in demonstrations of missiles and issuing dark threats to the world at large, from shutting down the Straits of Hormuz to crushing Israel and American military bases in the event of conflict. Most of this is bluff and bombast; Iran is not about to start a full-scale military conflict with us because they know they will be decimated. If they are attacked, there will probably be some sort of response, but that will depend on what happens inside the country, which is the major concern of the supreme leader and the Guards. The bluff and bluster intends two objectives: it intimidates the Iranian people, and it drives up the price of oil. The former won’t work. The latter always does, at least for a while.
The sort of attack the Iranians are prepared to unleash is verbal, not military, and a great rhetorical assault was on display recently in Tehran, when Vice President Rahimi accused “Zionists” of drug trafficking, which he said was endorsed by Talmudic commentary:
Rahimi said the Talmud, or canon of Jewish religious law, “teaches them how to destroy non-Jews so as to protect an embryo in the womb of a Jewish mother”, according to excerpts published by the Fars news agency.
He accused “Zionists”, a term the Iranian government usually applies to Israelis and their Jewish supporters abroad, of inciting drug trafficking. “You cannot find a single addict among the Zionists,” Rahimi said.
He went on to assert that the Zionists ordered gynecologists to kill black babies, and for extras blamed the Jews for the Russian Revolution.
Even some European diplomats were shocked, shocked, I suppose because they would prefer such remarks be made in private. But everybody knows that Khamenei and his henchmen believe this bile, and that given the opportunity they will act on it.
But not yet.