Iran regime grapples with its worst crisis, hamstrung by internal power struggle

Iran regime grapples with its worst crisis, hamstrung by internal power struggle warsclerotic.com/2020/07/26/ira
Iran regime grapples with its worst crisis, hamstrung by internal power struggle
Challenges of COVID-19 and economic meltdown are exacerbated by frequent explosions — most of which may have less to with Israel than a battle between reformists and conservatives By AVI ISSACHAROF…

warsclerotic.com

Iran regime grapples with its worst crisis, hamstrung by internal power struggle

https://www.timesofisrael.com/could-most-of-the-recent-blasts-in-iran-stem-from-an-internal-election-battle/

Challenges of COVID-19 and economic meltdown are exacerbated by frequent explosions — most of which may have less to with Israel than a battle between reformists and conservatives

People wearing protective face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus walk through the Nasr Shopping Center in Tehran, Iran, July 15, 2020 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

People wearing protective face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus walk through the Nasr Shopping Center in Tehran, Iran, July 15, 2020 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The stream of mysterious explosions and fires in Iran over the past few weeks has stirred the imagination of countless Israelis and media outlets.

Is it possible that a foreign intelligence entity is trying — and managing — to destabilize the Islamic Republic? Is someone trying to drag Iran into a war or a confrontation?

Just this week, there was an explosion at a power station in Isfahan Province and, later the same day, a fire broke out at a phone factory in northwestern Iran. In late June, there was a big explosion near a military facility in Tehran and another one in a civilian hospital in the capital, where 19 people were killed.

However, officials have not been quick to blame Israel, the United States, or the West, at least not in most cases — and there could be a reason for that.

This July 5, 2020, satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. shows the substantial damage done by an explosion and a fire at an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

Setting aside the most dramatic incident, the July 2 blast at the nuclear facility in Natanz — which is said by some experts to have significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program, damaging an advanced centrifuge development and assembly plant, and which foreign media reports have attributed to Israel — the other cases have been blamed by the Iranians on such banal causes as poor maintenance, rising temperatures and negligence. (A report on Thursday said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] has concluded that contractor Ershad Karimi was the perpetrator of the Natanz attack.)

This summer in Iran has indeed been hot. This week, temperatures reached 43°C (109°F) in the port city of Bandar Abbas, 35°C (95°F) in Shiraz and 34°C (93°F) in the capital Tehran.

And the national infrastructure is rickety anyway, and every year there are fires and even explosions. Still, this year, their number has increased.

Footage of a fire at a factory near Tabrinz, Iran on July 19, 2020. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian Diplomatic and Security Studies at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, suspects a different cause.

“Since March, we have witnessed hundreds of fires, perhaps even a thousand, across the country. That’s unimaginable. Why would a foreign entity do something like this? What interest do they have to attack a hospital? And I’m not talking about Natanz,” he said.

Meir Javedanfar (YouTube screenshot)

“Somebody’s trying to weaken President [Hassan] Rouhani and tarnish his public image,” he elaborated. “We saw that in the attempt to pass a motion of no confidence in the Iranian Majlis (parliament). Now, the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei has apparently blocked that effort — and all of a sudden, there has been a significant fall in the number of fires and explosions.”

Javedanfar was alluding to the tensions within the conservative wing of Iran’s leadership, which has ruled the parliament since last February’s election.

The elected speaker of the Majlis is Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a well-known conservative who previously ran against Rouhani. Ghalibaf was a top-ranking IRGC official and a commander of its Air Force.

Along with his parliamentary peers, Ghalibaf has been trying to challenge Rouhani and the members of his moderate-reformist wing ahead of the next presidential election, in May 2021.

This handout picture provided by the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency (ICANA) on May 31, 2020, shows Iranian Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (C) chairing a parliament session in the capital Tehran (ICANA NEWS AGENCY / AFP)

Rouhani, who has been president since 2013, cannot be reelected, but a representative of his moderate wing will aim to succeed him, possibly in a contest against Ghalibaf.

One of the names mentioned as a potential candidate for the moderate wing is Ali Larijani, a former speaker of the Majlis, who was recently appointed as adviser to the supreme leader.

Inundated with problems

The struggle between these two wings is deeply affecting Iran, complicating its response to the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the country. WarSclerotic read more

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