JAFFA, Israel – Iranian conservatives are promoting a top Revolutionary Guard commander as a potential successor to President Hassan Rouhani (pictured), the London-based Al Quds al Arabi newspaper reported.
Conservative elements in the Iranian regime who are “concerned with the penetration of and spread of Western culture in the country” hope Kassem Suleimani, the commander of the Al Quds Brigades, will defeat Rouhani in next year’s presidential election.
Rouhani’s detractors have also leaped at the corruption scandals that have engulfed him and his associates in a bid to undermine his reelection chances. They have gone so far as to label him an Israeli and American puppet who lets enemy interests dictate Iranian policy.
The report quoted an Iranian news agency as saying that Rouhani’s brother is embroiled in large-scale banking fraud, for which he may face a life sentence. It said that conservatives demanded Rouhani condemn his brother’s actions and launch an inquiry into the matter.
“The president should punish his brother, not defend him,” they said, according to the report.
The paper also said that Rouhani’s detractors are laboring to undermine his financial backers.
Meanwhile, they have started grooming Suleimani as a potential challenger, although he himself turned down a similar idea raised on the eve of the 2013 elections.
Recent reports in the international media claimed that Suleimani has orchestrated the Iraqi and Syrian armies’ campaigns against rebel forces.
He was seen at battlefields in Syria and Iraq, especially near Faluja, where the Iraqi army, backed by Shi’ite militias, launched an offensive on Islamic State strongholds. Suleimani’s presence created a backlash in Iraqi public opinion, which led the government to say that he was not there as an Iranian agent, but as an adviser to the government.
Suleimani’s election would mark a clear victory for the conservatives and increase Iran’s interventionist policies in the Middle East by further supporting organizations such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Houthi groups in Yemen. It would also be a blow to Western proponents of the nuclear deal, who said that its signing would bolster the moderate camp in Tehran.