Thursday 24 December 2015

Revolutionary Guards and Leadership Council

The protests that Iran’s hardliners, conservative ideologues and even the minister of intelligence of Hassan Rouhani’s administration have launched over talk about a council to replace the supreme leader is based on changes that have gradually been imposed in recent years. Over the years, step by step measures through changes in laws, the constitution and interpretations of it have contained and restricted elected offices and legal oversight over rulers, especially the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

The continuation of this process the negation of the possibility of creating a council as the highest authority of the state, rather than a single individual in the name of a supreme leader, should be seen as a violation of the constitution. Even ayatollah Khamenei (as retold by Ahmad Khatami) had at one time spoken against a single supreme leader.

As arrangements stand today, the supreme leader has to be acceptable to the IRGC. Because of this, it cannot be just an observer on electing the next leader and allow those members of the Assembly of Experts on Leadership - an elected body of 86 clerics - who have till today not had any political authority or importance, decide such a critical office.

Even during the time when Khamenei was discussed as the new supreme leader, powerful individuals at the time, led by Hashemi Rafsanjani who enjoyed the support of the IRGC, set aside the proposal to have a leadership council and after quoting Mr. Khomeini, proposed Khamenei’s name as the next supreme leader.

So if members of the Assembly in 1989 lacked the credibility and force to prevent someone who did not have the qualifications to become the next leader, how does one expect them today, under current conditions, prevent an IRGC-supported individual from becoming the next supreme leader?

Mr Rafsanjani is right in saying that the constitution provides for supervision over the supreme leader and also for a leadership council. Article 111 of the constitution of the Islamic republic provides for the establishment of a temporary Leadership Council (without a term limit) to be comprised of the president, the head of the judiciary, and a senior cleric from the Guardian Council selected by the Expediency Council. The constitution specifically allows for the country to be run by this country.

The exact language of article 111 negates what the head of the judiciary recent said to the effect that the constitution does not provide for any supervision over the supreme leader. The Leadership Council also has the right to appoint the top commanders of the armed forces. Regarding the election of the commander of the IRGC, the Council must also get the consent of two thirds of the State Expediency Council.

It is clear from these provisions that the constitution has specific provisions for the country to be run indefinitely through a leadership council rather than a single supreme leader should a supreme leader not be in a position to carry out his duties.

So when the constitution makes such specific references to a leadership council, why then do some politicians deny this provision and call discussions about a leadership council to be another “sedition,” or plot to overthrow the regime? Such thoughts and words give rise to fears that perhaps some quarters are thinking of imposing a single person on the country should unfavorable changes take place (such as a new composition of the Assembly of Experts on Leadership). But can such a single person be anybody who does not enjoy the full support of the IRGC?

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