World View: Iran's Supreme Leader Tries to Defeat the Younger Generation

This morning's key headlines from

  • Iran's Supreme Leader tries to defeat the younger generation
  • Charges of sorcery
  • An ideological and generational assault

Iran's Supreme Leader tries to defeat the younger generation

Iran's eight approved candidates (BBC)
Iran's eight approved candidates (BBC)

In a stunning generational assault, Iran's Guardians Council has followed the wishes of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has disqualified all presidential candidates who do not follow Khamenei's hardline ideology. With a new presidential election coming next month, the council disqualified two major candidates who are considered "centrist" or "reformist."

The most colorful rejection was of Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, the top aide and close friend of current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have had bitter power struggles for the last four years, related to a widening theological dispute. (See "7-May-11 News -- Resignation of Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be imminent".)

Charges of sorcery

In 2009 Khamenei accused Mashaei and other Ahmadinejad aides of being sorcerers, of using "supernatural powers," and of being "magicians" and invoking djinns (spirits).

The charges of sorcery are related to the devout belief, held by Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, in the Mahdaviat -- the Shia Muslim belief that the Mahdi (or "the 12'th Imam" or "the Hidden Imam") is coming to save mankind. This belief is roughly equivalent to the Christian belief in the second coming of Christ, or the Buddhist belief in the Maitreya -- that a new Buddha is to appear on earth, and will achieve complete enlightenment. Ahmadinejad disobeyed Supreme Leader Khamenei in several matters, which is considered to be equivalent to disobeying God. But Ahmadinejad was just paving the way for the return of the Hidden Imam, and was using his claim that the Hidden Imam's return is imminent as a justification for disobeying Khamenei. Thus, the charges of sorcery.

But the disqualification of Mashaei as a presidential candidate may have occurred for far more prosaic reasons. Mashaei is very outspoken on issues of individual rights and personal freedoms, particularly for women. These are all views that are firmly rejected by the hardline Khamenei.

Similarly disqualified was former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who intensely dislikes Ahmadinejad and Mashaei, but who has also criticized the Khamenei supporter for suppressing free speech, and crushing the protests in 2009, and has advocated better relations with the West.

Iran is in a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s. America in the 1960s was a political battle between the older generation, the hardline survivors of World War II, versus the younger "free thinking" generation that grew up after WW II. Iran today is in a political battle between the older generation, the hardline survivors of the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the following Iran/Iraq war, versus the younger free thinking generation that grew up since the 1980s.

An ideological and generational assault

So Khamenei's move to disqualify the centrist and reformist candidates is both an ideological assault and a generational assault. It's a desperate move, as Khamenei sees his hardline ideology being eaten away by younger generations who think it's perfectly OK for a woman to walk down the street without a head scarf. Sooner or later there'll be an "Awakening era crisis" which, like President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, will settle the generational battle one way or another. In the meantime, disqualifying all the reforming and centrist candidates is pretty certain to infuriate the younger generations. BBC and AFP

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