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As protesters return to the streets in Iran to demonstrate against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the results of the recent election, a new report says that Mr. Khamenei's son, Mojtaba Khamenei, is leading the government's anti-protest militias.
The Guardian reports that, according to "a politician with strong connections to the security apparatus" in Iran, Mr. Mojtaba's leading role in the crackdown has "dismayed many of the country's senior clerics, conservative politicians, and Revolutionary Guard generals."
"Mojtaba is the commander of this coup d'etat. The basiji are operating on Mojtaba's orders, but his name is always hidden in all of this. The government never mentions him," the Iranian politician said. "Everyone is angry about this. The maraji [Iran's most senior ayatollahs] and the clerics are angry, the conservatives are very angry and strongly critical of Mojtaba. This situation cannot continue with so many people on the top against it."
The Guardian's source adds, however, that the conservatives worry that overt opposition to the Ayatollah and his son risks undermining the Islamic Republic government and its power in the Middle East. Instead, he says, they will use their political power to hamper the ability of the Ayatollah and Mr. Ahmadinejad to govern.
Mojtaba's role in the crackdown is particularly noteworthy as the Ayatollah has been grooming Mojtaba as his successor. The Los Angeles Times reported that Mojtaba has become a key player in the bureaucracy that the Ayatollah created to consolidate his power, but an attempt to raise Mojtaba to the seat of supreme leader would face resistance from a large portion of Iran's clergy.
Mojtaba Khamenei is a secretive man who doesn't want to "be on people's tongues," said Mohsen Sazegara, an Iranian journalist and former government official whose reformist views led to his brief imprisonment in 2003. "Nobody knows much about him."
The younger Khamenei is the "most influential person in his father's court," said Ali Afshari, a dissident and reformist who spent three years in jail for running pro-democracy programs. "The question is, what happens when his father is gone? Mojtaba needs to hold on to the security apparatus." ...
Analysts say Mojtaba Khamenei lacks the religious and political stature to overcome the opposition he would face in the Assembly of Experts, the body charged with selecting the supreme leader. His
... father is believed to have influence over about half of the assembly's 86 seats, but the board is headed by Rafsanjani and includes other reformists who probably would block a bid by the younger Khamenei to succeed his father.
The efforts of the Ayatollah and his son to consolidate power may be running afoul of the clergy in part because they appear to be contrary to Islamic law. Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, writes for The New Republic that the Ayatollah has attempted to change Iranian government priorities from a religious focus to a nationalist focus.
[Ayatollah Khamenei] introduced the concept of
– interests of the regime – and declared, much to the consternation of nearly every other ayatollah, that these interests, as determined by him or his successor, would supersede even the fundamentals of Islam. In other words, the state was everything – and sharia [Islamic law] was nothing but its legitimizing narrative, a narrative that could be suspended at the will of the leader.
Mojtaba may also be involved in the recent souring of diplomatic relations between Iran and Britain. The British government, as part of the international sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, froze $1.64 billion in Iranian assets last month, reported Reuters.
Unsourced reports, referenced by The Guardian and Iran portal site Payvand.com, say that the money belongs to Mojtaba, and as a result may be a factor in Iran's detention of several British embassy employees in Tehran. Earlier this week, Iran released the eighth of the nine employees held, leaving only the embassy's chief political analyst, an Iranian, still in detention.