Saturday, June 28, 2014

New CIA documents on the TPAJAX plot

A new CIA document has been released on the Mossadeq coup. There is a lot to go over, and I will be writing about this at length eventually. For now the documents can be accessed here with commentary by Malcolm Byrne. The usual caveats about the quality of his work and biases apply as normal. (A lot of the information in this account contradicts scholarly work by Byrne and Gasiorowski)

Section A: here
Section B: here
Section C: here

Friday, June 6, 2014

More Iranian Military Posturing

The head of the Iranian Navy stated that several Iranian destroyers will be traveling to the south Indian Ocean as a show of force. While stereotypically hyperbolic, this is at least moderately feasible. Several months ago Western media outlets were in an uproar over statements that Iran was sending a fleet to the East Coast of the United States. This turned out to be an absurd exaggeration, EA Worldview has a good rundown of that story here:

So is this new claim something worth paying attention to? It is possible that the ships may in fact reach their destination because the location which Iran's ships are traveling is remote, and is much closer to Iran's borders than the United States. Unlike the nonsense about the Iranian ships traveling to the Eastern Seaboard, it is not an inherently bellicose move, but it again demonstrates Iran's ambition.

Though Iran has a very long way to go to catch up to the military might of the United States (or even Israel), this event is most important for a reference point in understanding the priorities of the Iranian government and military, the most relevant one being prestige.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Head of Assembly of Experts Mahdavi-Kani in coma

With the Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani reportedly in a coma following a heart attack, a new head of the Assembly of Experts will likely have to be selected at some point in the near future. 

The Assembly of Experts is a body of Mujtahids that are responsible for electing and removing the Supreme Leader. As I have written before, Iran’s governmental structure is complicated at best, and while in theory this group has these powers, there is virtually no chance of them removing the Supreme Leader at any point (and even if they wanted to, the Supreme Leader has other powers, including complete control of the judiciary and armed forces, which would make this near impossible). That being said, they do have the authority to select the next Supreme Leader when the time comes. 

The chairmanship of this group is of particular importance. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had been the chairman prior to his decision to express some support for the Green Movement of 2009, but was forced out and replaced by Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani. Mahdavi-Kani is less hardline than some of the alternatives so this was actually seen as a minor victory for Rafsanjani who stood to lose a lot more. 

Rafsanjani’s family has been heavily persecuted by the state as well as his domestic rivals which I have also written about in the past, and I would be very surprised if Rafsanjani was reinstated. And even though the Supreme Leader recently delegated additional constitutional powers to the body which Rafsanjani is still the chair of (the Expediency Council), it seems unlikely that there would be another significant move to benefit Rafsanjani. Khamenei and Rafsanjani are still rivals and the Supreme Leader does not want to empower him.

UPDATE 1: A list of folks who have reportedly visited the Ayatollah include the Supreme Leader, the President, the head of the Basij, Khomeini's grandson and others.

UPDATE 2: Ahmed Khatami, the hardline cleric evidently cancelled the upcoming elections to replace Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani. Ayatollah Rafsanjani was a (the?) favorite to replace the comatose Mahdavi-Kani, despite habitual and continuing persecution against Rafsanjani and his family from regime insiders.

UPDATE 3: Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani has died according to multiple sources (PressTVFars etc). It is unclear what steps will be taken to replace him, if the acting chairman (Shahroudi) will be promoted, or if there will be elections.