The Iranian Death Spiral Resumes

So now the Ahmadinejad people and the Khamenei people are fighting it out in the streets of Tehran, as Reza tells us.  Those who have followed this blog for some time will recognize it as the latest phase in what I call "The War of the Persian Succession," a nasty fight over who will be the next Supreme Leader of Iran, after the passing of Khamenei.

Remember, too, that Mousavi -- the leader of a Green Movement that is very much a player in this struggle -- designed a strategy that would lead to the implosion of the regime, not its overthrow in a dramatic confrontation.  He believes that the internal conflicts are so severe, that if only pressure can be maintained, the system will come down.  He hoped that pressure would come from the West, but it didn't (even though the sanctions have made life more difficult).  So the process is slower than it might have been, but still moving along the lines he designed.

I think it is unlikely that one "faction" will definitively prevail over the other.  The leader and the president are siamese twins, fused at a vital part of their anatomies, and separation might well be fatal to both.  Each  has weapons aimed at the other's heart, and the weapons consist of information of massive fraud and theft.

The Greens issued a lengthy report on these practices, and on the skullduggery the contending forces are practicing on each other.  It's quite spectacular (h/t Michael Rubin and Ali Alfoneh):

  • "Following clerical criticism of Ahmadinejad's behavior and the policies of his government, Ahmadinejad supporters have pressured the theologians through the Counter Espionage Directorate of the Revolutionary Guards... By installing listening devices in their classes and their offices, they have tried to force them to cooperate with the government and approve of his [Ahmadinejad's] initiatives... In reaction, some theologians threatened to react and put the government in its place, which led the Revolutionary Guards to station special forces units in Qum to suppress any unpredictable movement... This has further angered the theologians."
  • "Following the Office of the Supreme Leader's decision to transfer the main part of the oil revenue to a special account supervised by a three man group headed by Mojtaba Khamenei... Ahmadinejad used the first cabinet session following this decision to attack Mr. Khamenei and his entourage. He called this decision insulting and restriction of the cabinet's access to the oil revenue. He [Ahmadinejad] called the Supreme Leader 'ignorant' and a 'tool.'"
  • "Ahmadinejad has recently sent [Intelligence Minister] Heydar Moslehi the names of 45 senior Intelligence Ministry officials and has demanded their dismissal... Ahmadinejad had also said that according to the investigations of the Revolutionary Guards Counter Espionage Directorate, these individuals had not shown the necessary loyalty towards the cabinet and must be replaced with a number of individuals soon to be identified by the cabinet... Heydar Moslahi had in his report to Ayatollah Khamenei called 'acceptance of this demand' a 'serious blow to the body of the Intelligence Ministry.'"
  • "In Moslehi's report, there is also account of surfacing of a number of microphones in the wake of infiltration of the ministry by members of the Revolutionary Guards Counter Espionage units... According to the report, with Ahmadinejad's knowledge, the Office of the Supreme Leader too was tapped."
  • "In February, a group of internal security forces close to Ahmadinejad visited Dubai as a trade mission....They also met with two American political/military authorities in the United Arab Emirates. In the report, the Intelligence Ministry has strongly warned the Leader of the consequences of such deeds."
  • "The Ministry of Industries has in a confidential report to the parliament - officially also submitted to the Intelligence Ministry - reported that it is not capable of explaining the oil and industrial agreements between Iran and China and Iran and Malaysia and is not aware of their content. The Ministry of Industries has also reported that it has not played any role in those activities. Following the disclosure of the report in the parliament, Ahmadinejad sarcastically tells the Industry Minister: 'This is why we have decided to dissolve the Ministry of Industries.'"
  • "The Oil Ministry has in a report to the parliamentary Energy Committee stressed that it is completely ignorant of the level of fuel exports through the tenth countrywide pipeline and is not willing to accept any responsibility in this regard since this pipeline is not at all under the ministry's control and its revenues are not sent to the government....The report also discloses that the Kish subsea pipeline - built by the Revolutionary Guards and Chinese companies - exports great amounts of fuel which has resulted in $3 billion discrepancy in the oil revenue, which the Oil Ministry no longer desires to be accountable for. According to the Intelligence Ministry, the 600 kilometers long Ahwaz-Dehgolan pipeline, has resulted in $580 million embezzlement by the Revolutionary Guards. The amount has been tracked to two personal accounts in Malaysia. There is also report of $2 billion embezzlement in the Neka-Jask pipeline. The amount has been traced to personal bank accounts - in China - of several senior Revolutionary Guards commanders."

The entirety of the country's oil and gas business is now in the hands of Khamenei's son.  There is no oversight from the "government," and when the deputies in the Majlis tried a bit of earmarking, they found the cupboard was bare:

IranChannel reported on March 18 that the mullahs in parliament found $11 billion missing from the state-controlled petrodollar fund in Iran’s foreign exchange account. On April 29, reported that a member of parliament declared that not even a dollar was left in that account. Reviewing the current budget, the head of the parliamentary agricultural committee proposed $2 billion from the foreign reserve account to fund water projects, to whom the head of the joint (talfigh) committee replied that nothing, not even a dollar, remained.

No surprise, then, that there is still no approved national budget for the year that began in March.  There are varying reports of whether food subsidies will be extended, cancelled, reduced or increased. The numbers we have on the economy are impressively negative.  The government's bank debt has risen 35% in the last 9 months;  unemployment is up, labor protests are increasing...

Indeed, aside from stealing, the only thing this regime is still able to do is torture and kill.  There are many reports of the Iranian involvement in the Syrian slaughter, most recently a story -- which I have confirmed -- that Khamenei has ordered the Iraqi-based "Sadr Army" (you remember Muqtadah al Sadr, surely) to send thousands of killers into Syria to save the Assad regime.  Previous stories identified Hezbollah killers as snipers in Syrian cities, and Revolutionary Guards officers acting as commanders in the field and advisers in Damascus.