After years of increasing infightings within his regime, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei believed that by appointing Ebrahim Raisi as president and handpicking his government, he could consolidate power and overcome fissures while facing a volatile society. But it seems he has found no port in the storm.
The recent removal of Mohsen Rezaei, Raisi’s vice president for economic affairs, from the so-called “economic and financial commission” has caused a lot of stir in the regime, laying bare Khamenei’s failure in installing a so-called united “revolutionary government.”
The state-run Eghtesad-online reported on April 25 that Mohammad Mokhber, Raisi’s first vice president, officially announced the removal of Mohsen Rezaei and Solat Mortazavi from the government’s economic commission. “Per Article 138 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Cabinet of Ministers approved the removal of the Executive and Economic Vice Presidents from the Government’s Economic Commission,” read Mokhber’s statement.
Mokhber’s statement and Rezaei’s removal were widely covered by Iran’s state media and forced regime officials to acknowledge their infightings.
“Mohsen Rezaei failed again. It seems that the government does not welcome his endeavors to impose his point of view and economic plans,” the state-run Hamdeli daily wrote on April 25. “The situation has become difficult as more economic problems appear and sanctions continue. Therefore, the Raisi government’s economic team was stacked with conflicting voices and plans.”
“The root of this problem goes back to the beginning of Raisi’s government. When the names of the economic team members were announced, many economists confirmed that this team would not last long,” the state-run Entekhab website wrote on April 24. “The news leaked that [Mokhber] disagrees with [Rezaei] on how to manage the economy.”
Iran has gone through its worst economic meltdown in the past century. The regime’s institutionalized corruption, ineptitude, and mismanagement have indeed destroyed the country’s economic foundations. Tehran’s support of terrorism has also resulted in more international isolation, thus increasing the financial calamity.
While the Iranian regime’s officials are indeed bereft of any solution, they blame each other for the current economic crunch and claim they have the key to open all locks. But this is much ado about nothing. They have a dangerous appetite for devouring more resources and further plundering the people. Their shedding of crocodile tears for the plight of ordinary Iranians is part of a desperate attempt to prevent public anger.
This fact was confirmed by Gholamali Jafarzadeh-Imanabadi, a former Iranian MP, who acknowledged in his interview with the state-run Namehnews on April 28 that Raisi “has very little economic knowledge.”
“Six candidates of the [sham] presidential election are in Raisi’s government. In other words, this government has six presidents!” Imanabadi added.
Imanabadi admitted that “facts indicate fundamental differences in the government’s economic team.” “This is a childish excuse that Rezaei himself asked not to participate in the economic commission. Why would the vice president for economic affairs not participate in this commission?” Imanabadi added, rebuking the regime’s claims that Rezaei had voluntarily decided not to attend those meetings.
Rezaei and Mokhber, conflicting interests?
It seems that the conflict between Rezaei and Mokhber is more profound than mere economic matters. To understand better, one needs to know about their backgrounds.
Rezaei was the regime’s first IRGC commander and maintained his position as a senior IRGC commander and his liaison with the IRGC’s financial empire. It is worth noting that Rezaei is a war criminal who orchestrated sending hundreds of thousands of children to the Iran-Iraq war front using them as cannon fodders to clear the minefields.
Rezaei was the commander of the regime’s Khatam-ol-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, which dominates Iran’s construction projects. In its charter, the most important goal of the complex is to “efficiently utilize the available construction and economic resources, capacities and talents of the IRGC to continue the Islamic Revolution.”
In May 2012, the regime made quite a show of “combatting corruption” by holding public court sessions of Mahafarid Khosravi. Khosravi was accused of embezzling 30,000 billion rials. But everything went wrong when the defendant revealed that he was in close relation with the regime’s top officials.
In part of his defense, Khosravi revealed that Mohsen Rezaei, then Secretary for the Expediency Discernment Council, had met Khosravi in his home in Lavizan, north of Tehran, and his office in Zafar Street. According to Khosravi, Rezaei had asked him to open a firm outside Iran to circumvent the sanctions.
Fearing his revelations could endanger the regime’s “security,” Khosravi was abruptly executed while the court sessions had not ended.
Mokhber was the head of the Headquarters for the “Execution of Khomeini’s Order (EIKO),” Khamenei’s major plundering conglomerate, since July 2007. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Director of Commerce and Transportation for the Mostazafan Foundation, another gigantic conglomerate that has plundered the Iranian people’s wealth. He was also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sina Bank and the Deputy Governor of Khuzestan.
Rezaei and Mokhber’s recent dispute could only be explained in the context of a conflict of interest. Each wants more share of people’s plundered wealth.
“Raisi appoints Mokhber as his Vice President and Rezaei as the Economic Vice President. Rezaei considers himself more competent than Mokhber. Therefore, he should have the final word. But Mokhber has more power and supervises Rezaei. The outcome of their disagreement is the current skyrocketing inflation, prices, and people’s poor livelihood,” Mehdi Ayati, an ex-MP, told the state-run Khabaronline on April 24.
Another fact that increases the regime’s infighting is Iran’s restive society. People from all walks of life hold protests across Iran daily. These protests are the broadest display of a society on the verge of explosion. People call out Raisi’s hollow promises, mock his illiteracy, and point out that the root of their problems lies in the regime and its officials. Thus, officials blame each other and try to present their methods as a way out. But the question is: Will they succeed?
“The country’s economic situation is critical, and people’s lives face many challenges. Thus, we should find an immediate solution or see its tough consequences,” Hossain Naghavi Hossaini, former MP, told the state-run Khabaronline on April 25.
It is safe to say that Khamenei has failed in uniting his regime and implementing his strategy of consolidating power in his moribund regime. In other words, his efforts to preserve his regime by hook or crook no longer work.