A Deal to Save Iran?

The Daily Beast’s Reza Aslan reports that Iran’s clerics may be close to forcing a compromise from the supreme leader—one that would entail a runoff election between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad.

Reliable sources in Iran are suggesting that a possible compromise to put an end to the violent uprising that has rocked Iran for the past two weeks may be in the works. I have previously reported that the second most powerful man in Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of the Assembly of Experts (the body with the power to choose and dismiss the supreme leader) is in the city of Qom—the country’s religious center—trying to rally enough votes from his fellow assembly members to remove the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from power. News out of Iran suggests that he may be succeeding. At the very least, it seems he may have gained enough support from the clerical establishment to force a compromise from Khamenei, one that would entail a runoff election between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main reformist rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Reports of the possible compromise, though unconfirmed, are coming from multiple sources. Considering the Guardian Council’s tacit admission that there were indeed some voting irregularities (at least 50 cities in Iran reported more than 100% voter turnout—some as much as 140%), as well as the refusal of many senior members of Iran’s parliament, including the powerful speaker Ali Larijani, a close ally of Khamenei, to accept the election results (Ahmadinejad’s presidential victory party last night drew less than a third of parliament’s members, with Larijani a conspicuous no-show), there is reason to believe that the regime may be willing to accept some kind of compromise. More importantly, cracks have begun to appear among the highest levels of the Revolutionary Guard. A few days ago, the head of Tehran’s branch of the IRGC, the one-eyed war hero Ali Fazli, was removed from his post and detained, ostensibly for refusing to follow orders. Meanwhile, the sheer brutality of the government crackdown has only further fueled the peoples’ anger. On Tuesday, a large number of bazaar merchants closed their shops in an unofficial strike to show solidarity with the protesters. And despite the fact that protests in the capital city of Tehran have diminished, there are still reports of massive protests taking place in other parts of the country, including in Tabriz, Isfahan, Kermanshah, Mashad, and Shiraz. These protests have been significantly smaller due to the brutal security crackdown, but they have also been much more forceful and violent.

It was exactly a week ago, during Friday prayers, that Khamenei threw down the gauntlet to the protesters, unleashing the full force of Iran's security apparatus to deal with the uprising. If a compromise is indeed in the works, look for a softening of tone tomorrow during Khamenei’s Friday sermon.

Reza Aslan, a contributor to The Daily Beast, is assistant professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside and senior fellow at the Orfalea Center on Global and International Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He is the author of the bestseller No god but God and How to Win a Cosmic War.