Will Ansar-e Hezbollah rise again?

Article Highlights

  • Irony in Iran: While the Supreme Leader may theoretically hold absolute power, the gov't is nonetheless riven with factions.

    Tweet This

  • The Supreme Leader maintains control by balancing Iran’s various factions, political groups, and power centers.

    Tweet This

  • While the presidency in Iran is more about style than substance, the elections have, at times, threatened to destabilize the Islamic Republic.

    Tweet This

The irony of the Iranian system of government is that while the Supreme Leader may, as the “deputy of the Messiah on Earth,” theoretically hold absolute power, the Iranian government is nonetheless riven with factions. The Supreme Leader maintains control by balancing Iran’s various factions, political groups, and power centers so that none gets powerful enough to challenge his grip. When the balance gets knocked out of whack, sometimes the Supreme Leader and security services must rely on extralegal means. It is in this context that the report excerpted from Ansar-e Hezbollah’s newspaper Ya Lisarat is important.

While the presidency in Iran is more about style than substance, the elections have, at times, threatened to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Most famously, questions regarding election fraud led to nationwide riots in 2009. However, even before that, the Supreme Leader feared elections and their results. In 1997, for example, the elections delivered a surprise victory for former Culture Minister Mohammad Khatami over establishment favorite, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri. Khatami was the most reformist of the four candidates contesting that election (even though the Guardian Council, the regime’s vetting body, had disqualified 234 other candidates it considered too reformist or liberal) and captured the public’s imagination. The Supreme Leader soon found himself and those adhering most strictly to the regime’s revolutionary principles threatened by a wave of reformist desire for more openness.
In order to counter the reformist trend, the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps turned to vigilante groups, which need not, in practice, adhere to the constraints of law as most state bodies would. Chief among these was Ansar-e Hezbollah. The vigilante groups acted as the Supreme Leader’s “Brown Shirts,” roughing up opposition and, in a number of incidents during the Khatami administration, kidnapping and killing dissidents. While Ansar-e Hezbollah paralyzed the latter years of the Khatami administration, the group largely disappeared from the public stage after the hardline ‘Principalist’ candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad succeeded him.

The June 2013 presidential elections are particularly sensitive this year, as the post-election unrest that marked the 2009 polls remains in the public mind. That Ansar-e Hezbollah appears to be gearing up again for action—and that security force officials appear to be cooperating with it—suggests that the Supreme Leader and his inner circle again will seek extralegal means to constrain not only the Iranian public, but also whoever the new president is. Ansar-e Hezbollah’s rise presages greater domestic violence inside Iran.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin

What's new on AEI

In year four of Dodd-Frank, over-regulation is getting old
image Halbig v. Burwell: A stunning rebuke of a lawless and reckless administration
image Beware all the retirement 'crisis' reports
image Cut people or change how they're paid
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.