Election of Virulently Anti-Western Hardline Mullah to Head Iran’s Assembly of Experts Indicates Conservative Stronghold Still Intact, Experts Say
The election of a hardline mullah to lead the clerical body in Iran responsible for appointing the country’s supreme leader “illustrates that the conservatives and Islamic fundamentalists continue to be in charge, despite the recent appearance of defeat,” the head of the California-based Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Pooya Dayanim was referring to 90-year-old cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati’s becoming head of the Assembly of Experts. Jannati – a fierce critic of President Hassan Rounani’s — “barely won a seat on the 88-member assembly when voters went to the polls in February,” Dayanim said, “which should cause an intelligent observer to doubt the narrative we are being fed that the nuclear deal, detente and business with Iran are empowering so-called ‘moderates’ or ‘reformers.’”
He continued: “Time and time again, the conservatives have shown that they are fully in charge, and time and time again, the moderates have served as a loyal opposition, acquiescing with little objection to the conservatives’ authoritative control over all the important bodies of government.”
Mideast expert and former Pentagon analyst Harold Rhode said that though it is too early to tell what the immediate significance of Jannati’s victory means, “It is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards who are calling the shots, with zero incentive to relinquish any of their power.”
Rhode, a distinguished senior fellow at the New York-based think tank the Gatestone Institute, was responding to reports that the results of the Iranian elections in February indicated that the governing bodies there were now more moderate.
Still, Jannati, who also chairs the Guardian Council that vets political candidates, disqualified most reformists from running back then.
What is clear, according to Rhode – who spent time in Iran in 1977 and 1978, in the lead-up to the revolution that ousted the shah and ushered in the reign of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – is that “Iran is collapsing internally, with the country and its people going off a cliff.”
“There is not only a catastrophic water shortage, but rampant heroin- and opium-abuse,” he told The Algemeiner. “There is even reason to believe that the regime is encouraging drug addiction, to keep the people preoccupied, so as to pose less of a threat.”
According to Reuters, “Even by the standards of Iran’s clerical establishment, Jannati stands out for his virulently anti-Western opinions, once accusing the West of having created al Qaeda and describing US forces in Iraq as ‘bloodthirsty wolves.’”