Qom Clerics defy Khamenei

Rick Moran
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how important the religious leaders in Qom were to guaranteeing the legitimacy of the regime in Iran. At that point, Ayatollah Rafsanjani was working on the clerics there, hoping to get them to come out against Khamenei's powerplay at the ballot box.

The bombshell dropped today as Michael Slackman and Nazila Fathi of the New York Times report: that the clerics have issued a statement saying that the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult - if not impossible.

"This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic," said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. "Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei."

The announcement came on a day when Mr. Moussavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president's supporters, and as a close associate of the supreme leader called Mr. Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami "foreign agents," saying they should be treated as criminals.

The documents, published on Mr. Moussavi's Web site, accused supporters of the president of printing more than 20 million extra ballots before the vote and handing out cash bonuses to voters.

I would say 20 million extra ballots would go a long way toward stealing an election, wouldn't you?

The significance, as the Times story points out, is symbolic - for now. It depends on what Rafsanjani wants to do. It may give him a boost in the Assembly of Experts which could, given enough support for the ex-president, topple Khamenei himself or severely restrict his power. It won't be enough to hold another vote or oust Ahmadinejad but it certainly puts the regime on notice that change is in the air.

All we can do now is wait for Round Two.


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how important the religious leaders in Qom were to guaranteeing the legitimacy of the regime in Iran. At that point, Ayatollah Rafsanjani was working on the clerics there, hoping to get them to come out against Khamenei's powerplay at the ballot box.

The bombshell dropped today as Michael Slackman and Nazila Fathi of the New York Times report: that the clerics have issued a statement saying that the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult - if not impossible.

"This crack in the clerical establishment, and the fact they are siding with the people and Moussavi, in my view is the most historic crack in the 30 years of the Islamic republic," said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University. "Remember, they are going against an election verified and sanctified by Khamenei."

The announcement came on a day when Mr. Moussavi released documents detailing a campaign of fraud by the current president's supporters, and as a close associate of the supreme leader called Mr. Moussavi and former President Mohammad Khatami "foreign agents," saying they should be treated as criminals.

The documents, published on Mr. Moussavi's Web site, accused supporters of the president of printing more than 20 million extra ballots before the vote and handing out cash bonuses to voters.

I would say 20 million extra ballots would go a long way toward stealing an election, wouldn't you?

The significance, as the Times story points out, is symbolic - for now. It depends on what Rafsanjani wants to do. It may give him a boost in the Assembly of Experts which could, given enough support for the ex-president, topple Khamenei himself or severely restrict his power. It won't be enough to hold another vote or oust Ahmadinejad but it certainly puts the regime on notice that change is in the air.

All we can do now is wait for Round Two.