For now, Iran protests are utterly futile

By Meir Javedanfar, June 6, 2013
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Anti-regime Chants at the recent funeral procession in Iran of the reformist Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri have grabbed the international media's attention.

Ayatollah Taheri was a critic of the regime who, in 2002, resigned in protest from his post of Friday prayer leader in Esfahan. This was a bold move as Friday prayer leaders are usually direct appointees of the supreme leader.

The question that many are asking is: what impact could these protests, which are the first to take place in a long time, have on the elections?

The answer: on their own, none.

Only bigger and more frequent demonstrations could make a difference. And if that happened, the result would be a severe crackdown, followed by Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards ensuring that a hardline candidate wins the elections. In times of confrontation, this group of decision-makers refuse compromise, as that could be interpreted as weakness.

Meanwhile, it is safe to say that moderate candidate Hassan Rowhani has no chance of success. There is little doubt that Mr Rowhani and the Stanford educated reformist Mohammad Reza Aref are far more popular than the conservative candidates. However, the supreme leader would not allow votes in their favour to be counted.

Both Mr Rowhani and Mr Aref want better relations with the West and a more open economy. In the eyes of the supreme leader, the West would use this openness to demand more human rights for Iranians, which is seen as a cover for regime change.

When it comes to protecting its interests, Khamenei is unforgiving - take his recent decision to stop funding Hamas because of the terror group's support for the opposition in Syria. Khamenei's regime is increasingly insecure at home and abroad. Both Hamas and Iranian reformists were once allies of the revolution. Look at them now.

Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst

Last updated: 8:45pm, June 6 2013