Larijani goes in at the deep end
Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani has been thrown in at the deep end. Some say he was against the current “show trials”, despite being of a pretty hardline bent, and therefore is no friend of the Ahmadinejad camp. All that may be true – it is hard to think that anyone with a modicum of intelligence can believe these trials are doing the hardliners (or Iran, or Islam) any good at all. But whether he was for or against, it seems pretty clear he did not want to be landed with the mess of the detentions, show trials and all the attendant allegations of rape and torture that have gone with them, at the start of his new job. Would you? Clearly he hasn’t been given a choice, and my reading of Khamenei’s decree is that he gets in there and sorts the mess out as fast as he can. In fact he is quite well placed to do so, sitting as he does with the endorsement of the Supreme Leader, his brother on the one hand running the Majlis, another brother a deputy head of the judiciary department (who reportedly thinks stoning is a good thing), and his own supposedly close ties to the military and intelligence services on the other. And although he has been criticised as lacking in experience (eg only recently jacked up from Hojatoleslam status), he has a sharp mind by all accounts. Some contend that the Larijanis, now one of the most powerful families in the land, are actually working in tandem with Ayatollah Rafsanjani to seek some equitable path out of this mess. That’s a bit hard to swallow, especially since Sadeq Larijani has always set himself full square against the sort of soft Islam espoused by the likes of Khatami. But he does have a big mess to sort out: the mass trials were clearly part of a strategy designed to end in the arrest and trial of the reformist ringleaders. That hasn’t happened and doesn’t even look like happening in the near future at least. It is interesting to note the reports last week that such a ploy was rejected by the National Security Council, supposedly on the advice of Khamenei that it threatened to be too destabilising. That leaves the hardliners with an overplayed hand that has made them on the one side an international laughing stock (for the absurdity of the cases against the detainees and the even greater absurdity of the confessions), and on the other an increasingly pariah state (with distinct echoes of the Nazis) that must be giving at least some Muslims in the Palestinian territories food for thought. That’s a big mess to clear up. The speed with which he manages to get these show trials wrapped up will give us some sign of whether Sadeq is up to the job.