Rifts between clerical and elite circles in Iran have been intensifying over the past year. MEMRI has consistently reported on the power struggle characterizing the pragmatic camp featuring Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Hassan Rohani and the ideological camp consisting of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior officials within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Now, the conflict between the rival camps is reaching new heights, as both sides are engaging in verbal threats against the other.
The ideological camp is referring to the pragmatic leaders as traitors who are engaging in ‘fitna’ (popular unrest) and deviating from the principles of the Islamic Revolution, representing a “deviant stream” of the current era. The ideological camp is also accused of being puppets of the U.S. and trying to impose Western culture over Iranian society.
Officials within the ideological camp implicitly warned that if Rohani did not follow Khamenei’s orders, he could suffer the same political demise endured by previous leaders, including former president Khatami and protest movement leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi who are under house arrest since 2009.
In April 2014, a computer game was created online by an official regime sanctioned organization, allowing players to kill “fitna leaders,” including moderate and protest movement figures. The game also allowed players to shoot down U.S., British, and Israeli flags. The game was blocked following Iranian public pressure, and MEMRI continues to hold a copy of it.
However, the pragmatic camp claims that the ideological camp act like Zionists who were pleased with the failure of the May 2014 round of nuclear negotiations. The pragmatic leaders have also called for more dialogue with the U.S. and continued efforts to open Iran up to the international community, advocating for more difficult decisions with respect to the nuclear program. It also threatened that the Iranian people will “enter the arena” (take to the streets) if the ideological camp continues to oppose the people’s will.
This growing feud has forced the Iranian Army chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi to call on the regime’s senior officials to “avoid schism, rumors, and baseless accusations.”