ISTANBUL (Rahnuma) :Ultra-conservatives in Iran sought to stage a coup against President Hassan Rouhani but were thwarted by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, according to Kayvan Samimi, editor of Iran’s ‘Iran-e Farda’ magazine, which is known to be close to the country’s reformist camp.
In an interview this week with Anadolu Agency, Samimi discusses recent developments in Iran, the attempted resignation of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and what he described as the country’s “double-headed” governing structure.
Khamenei ‘isn’t sole power’
According to Samimi, Iran’s main power centers remain closely bound to Khamenei, but they are not all entirely under his control.
“Groups that are strong financially and politically, like the Revolutionary Guard Corps (RGC), can even exert a degree of pressure on Khamenei,” he said.
“The RGC currently controls about 60 percent of Iran’s economy, but they want to control all of it,” he added.
Noting that Iranian ultra-conservatives had recently ratcheted up pressure on President Rouhani, Samimi said: “They had hoped to overthrow Rouhani by any means necessary, consolidate power, and stage a coup.”
“But Khamenei,” he added, “didn’t allow this happen.”
Samimi went on to note the “unique dynamics” of Iranian politics, which, he said, “are conducted primarily through individual relations”.
“These power groups are like feudal lords,” he explained. “They work in close coordination with each other based on their own particular interests.”
Samimi believes that Iran’s “double-headed” governing structure became especially apparent during Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s recent visit to the country.
“Assad was not invited by Rouhani’s government, but by the other one,” he said.
“Notably,” Samimi added, “Assad refused to fly to Tehran on an Iranian plane, insisting on using a Russian one instead. That’s a sign that he doesn’t trust Iran.”
FM vs. RGC
Samimi also discussed developments that occurred following Assad’s visit, which prompted Zarif’s attempted resignation.
“Zarif has been under considerable pressure by the conservatives for the past few years; he has tried to resign a couple of times,” he said.
“Khamenei, for his part, opposed the conservatives’ treatment of Zarif,” he explained. “He wanted to open negotiations with western countries — that’s why he supported Zarif.”
“Were that not the case, Khamenei would have appointed an ultra-conservative as foreign minister, like former FM Saeed Jalil, and would support anti-American and anti-western policies,” Samimi said.
He continued: “Following Zarif’s attempted resignation, Qasem Soleimani, commander of the RGC’s elite Quds Force, summoned Zarif to explain himself — but Zarif refused to take the meeting.”
Asked what would happen if Tehran failed to abide by signed international agreements, Samimi said Iran would first lose its credibility before going bankrupt.
Khamenei and reform
Responding to a question about what Iran will look like after Khamenei, Samimi said: “It remains unclear what will happen after Khamenei and which power center will fill the vacuum. Despite Khamenei’s flaws, there is currently no other alternative.”
“Khamenei’s continued presence is important in terms of maintaining the country’s stability and security,” he added. “He also serves to offset some of the RGC’s extremism.”
The supreme leader, Samimi concluded, “should carry out reforms in terms of personal freedoms with a view to preventing any more turmoil.”