On June 19, the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, selected Ebrahim Raisi as the mullahs’ new president to consolidate power in his regime. Many observers now ask why Khamenei took this decision despite Raisi’s record of human rights violations, mainly his role in the 1988 massacre and killing of protesters during the major Iran uprisings of 2019?
On the other hand, Raisi is on the U.S. sanctions list, and international organizations like Amnesty International have called for his prosecution for crime against humanity. Wasn’t Khamenei aware that his selection of Raisi would increase the regime’s international isolation? What was the main reason for Khamenei to pull Raisi’s name out of the ballot box and consolidate his regime?
We raised these questions in an exclusive interview with Mr. Mohammad Mohaddessin, the chairman of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Foreign Affairs Committee. The full text of this interview is as follows:
Q: Why did Khamenei appoint Raisi as president to consolidate his regime, even though he knew that this would increase the regime’s international isolation and invoke more hatred for the regime domestically? Why did he do this?
Khamenei was fully aware of this fact. At the same time, Khamenei also realized that his regime faces the serious threat of popular uprisings. To confront this threat, Khamenei was forced to install Raisi as president. Khamenei faces three major developments and Raisi’s “selection” is the regime’s response to these developments.
The first development is the regime’s urgent socio-economic situation and the resulting uncontainable crises. Iran’s economic situation is the worst it has been over the last century. The majority of the population cannot even make ends meet and address their basic needs. The people in Khuzestan province hold protests and demand potable water or water for farming and irrigation. The regime has literally dried up Iran’s rivers. The price of bread is increasing daily, and the prices of people’s basic needs are skyrocketing. There is rampant poverty everywhere. We witness tragic trends such as “grave dwelling.” People are forced to sell their organs to earn a living. On the other hand, the situation has reached such explosiveness that any social protest rapidly takes on political overtones, and people demand regime change in their slogans and chant “down with the principle of Velayat-e Faqih (absolute clerical rule).” So, this is the first crisis Khamenei faces.
The second development is that Iran’s society has entered a phase of unrest and uprisings since January 2018. This development and associated uprisings indicate that Iran’s society does not want this regime. The Iranian society has reached a level of awareness that the only solution for meeting even the most basic challenges to improve living conditions is simply regime change. Thus, any social protest is rapidly dominated by political demands, with explicit calls for regime change. For instance, the November 2019 uprising started due to a sudden hike in fuel prices. But the protests quickly turned into a nationwide uprising against the regime in its entirety and reflected people’s desire for regime change. Note that the people’s demand was not a decrease in fuel prices. Rather, they demanded regime change and chanted “Death to Khamenei.” Similar developments took place in other uprisings. For example, two months ago, protests erupted in Khuzestan due to water shortages, but slogans quickly became “death to Khamenei,” and the protests spread to other provinces and cities such as Tehran and Tabriz, with people calling for regime change.
The protests spreading from Khuzestan province to other parts of #Iran, despite the regime’s brutal crackdown, further indicates the Iranian people’s yearn and desire to overthrow the mullahs’ regime as the sole solution for a prosperous future.#IranProtests#خوزستان pic.twitter.com/juG20BjeUh
— Mohammad Mohaddessin (@Mohaddessin) July 21, 2021
The third development that Khamenei faces is the formation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) “Resistance Units” across Iran. The Resistance Units‘ role in keeping the fire of resistance alight and expanding it across Iran poses an existential threat to the regime.
The Iranian regime witnessed the Resistance Units operating on the ground during the January 2018 uprising, as they linked protests together and ensured their persistence. The regime also realized that the strategy of regime change was the ultimate result of these protests. During the last three years, Resistance Units have not only kept the fire of resistance ablaze, but they have also expanded it across the country. Iran’s younger generation is attracted to the MEK’s values and subscribes to its strategy, despite the regime’s decades of demonization campaigns and vilification of the MEK.
Q: So, the conclusion is that Khamenei appointed Raisi and consolidated power in his regime to explicitly oppress people and preserve his regime. Would Khamenei succeed in facing future uprisings and preventing his regime’s downfall through suppression?
Naturally, during this period, the conflict between the Iranian people and the regime will intensify, and the regime would resort to many crimes to confront uprisings and to prevent them from happening. But, ultimately, the opposite of intentions will happen, and it will not only be unable to prevent uprisings, but the uprisings will rather intensify. Consider the last years of the Shah’s reign, for instance. The Shah adopted the exact same strategy. He appointed a military government with General Azhari as its Prime Minister, with the hope of preserving his regime with an iron fist and through the imposition of martial law. But, the opposite happened: the protests intensified and led to his downfall.
Installing Raisi as the regime’s president and closing ranks was not Khamenei’s first or ideal choice. It is, in fact, his last option, and he resorted to it for one reason. The clerical regime is staring at its imminent downfall and had no viable strategies other than ending the “reformism” or “moderation” theatrics. It now has to show its true nature. But the Iranian people have tested this regime and do not have the slightest illusion that the only solution is regime change. Thus, we witness people calling for regime change in their protests as they demand their rights like access to water or bread, and they chant “death to the dictator,” and “down with the principle of the Velayat-e Faqih.”
Q: Iran’s Covid-19 crisis is reported to be very severe. The Iranian Resistance has underlined that Khamenei and his regime used the coronavirus to prevent uprisings. Have they been successful? Because there has not been an uprising in the scale of 2019 protests.
Khamenei commits all sorts of crimes to preserve his regime. In the last two years, one of his crimes was to leave the Iranian people defenseless in the face of the coronavirus. After the approval of Covid-19 vaccines, governments sought to vaccinate their populations as soon as possible. Yet, Khamenei banned the import of American and European vaccines to Iran, imposing hundreds of thousands of casualties on the Iranian people.
Khamenei took this criminal measure to extinguish the spirit of resistance among the people and spread anguish and despair among them. But as I said earlier, there was one factor that changed the entire equation and disrupted Khamenei’s agenda. Khamenei has not only failed in implementing his policy, but currently, the coronavirus outbreak has become yet another reason for future uprisings. The factor that brought about Khamenei’s failure was the spread of the MEK Resistance Units’ network across Iran.
Khamenei intended to launch mass casualties by exploiting the coronavirus outbreak. He calculated that if the coronavirus could result in mass casualties, people would naturally be disillusioned, and no one would have the energy to rise up against the regime. Thus, there would be an atmosphere of despair and hopelessness in society. But one element changed the situation and prevented Khamenei from achieving his goal, and that was the Resistance Units’ activities across Iran. These Resistance Units not only continued their campaign all over Iran during the darkest days of the Covid-19 outbreak but actually stepped up their activities and showed people that even in order to combat the coronavirus, they should first fight the “mullahs virus.”
In the past three years, the MEK’s Resistance Units have not only kept the flames of resistance alight in every arena but they have actually expanded their activities. They have inspired younger generations of Iranians to continue the MEK’s path despite the regime’s attempts to prevent them from discovering the MEK’s genuine message, and despite the regime’s demonization campaign against the MEK. Thus, Khamenei’s inhumane policy of causing mass casualties failed, and it has now turned into a serious problem for the regime. The regime is now forced to retreat on Khamenei’s ban on vaccines and import them because the mullahs are terrified of the people’s reaction and looming uprisings.