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What's Happening In Iran? A Long-Time Khamenei Ally Under Fire

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader and Sadeq Larijani (R). June 22, 2014. File photo
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader and Sadeq Larijani (R). June 22, 2014. File photo

During the past two days Iran's state TV has broadcast unprecedented criticism of former Judiciary chief and current Expediency Council Chairman Sadeq Amoli Larijani at least in three programs.

This is highly unusual in the Islamic Republic given that Larijani has been a long-time trusted ally and a key functionary of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Larijani was replaced as the head of Iran's all-powerful conservative Judiciary in December, after ten years of loyal service to Khamenei. But he was not put aside. He was given a new prestigous job.

Iranian social media users have widely circulated clips of these programs, while many speculated that the airing of the programs on the state TV, which is closely controlled by Khamenei's office, may indicate the cleric is losing his power base.

One Social media user sharing a video of two TV presenters talking about their experiences, wrote: "When the state TV attacks Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani and the website affiliated with a high-ranking official of the Supreme Leader's office relays it, this has only one meaning: Larijani’s expiration date has arrived…"

The two presenters tell their own experience of how an arrest warrant was issued against them and they landed in trouble after criticizing Larijani in an earlier program.

In another video clipped from a program broadcast on the Iranian State TV, a cleric tells the host that one of the most luxurious religious schools in Iran belongs to Sadeq Larijani and another cleric, Nateq Nouri.

In a third video, also clipped from a recording of a state TV program, an lawmaker explains how the censorship imposed on reporting about Larijani's activities adversely affected transparent reporting about financial corruption.

Mohammad Ali Vakili, a member of the Iranian Parliament and the managing editor of Ebtekar newspaper, tells Vahid Yaminpour, a hardline state TV anchor that Larijani as head of the Judiciary had intimidated both conservative and reformist media in a way that they remained silent in the face of the cleric's tyrannical performance as they feared reprisal by the Judiciary.

An adviser to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Abdolreza Davari opined that repeated attacks on Larijani by the state TV and the publication of confessions by one of Larijani's advisers, indicate there is an 'iron will' to confront the Larijani clan and the threats they pose against the system."

Political figures and social media users argued in various posts that the attacks on Larijani cannot happen with Khamenei's at least implicit approval. Khamenei appoints the head of the state TV and the organization is known for promoting his ideas and political agenda.

However, questioning Sadeq Larijani's authority and integrity started with an investigation into a major financial corruption case involving one of Larijani's closest aides Akbar Tabaripour. The multi-trillion rial case is still being investigated in spite of denials made by Larijani, whose political rivals have been working hard to highlight this case and its link to Larijani. The case is said to have led to the biggest purging of personnel in the Iranian Judiciary and banking system.

In several letters to Khamenei in 2018, Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly complained about the Iranian Judiciary's heavy-handed and politically biased performance under Sadeq Larijani.

The five Larijani Brothers, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, Former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Larijani, Former Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, former deputy Health Minister Baqer Larijani and former diplomat turned businessman Fazel Larijani, owe their careers to the reputation of their father, Mirza Hashem Amoli Larijani, a respected religious scholar and a confidant of Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. All five brothers, particularly, Ali, Sadeq and Mohammad Javad have always occupied key positions in the Iranian government.

While in office as Iran's President, Ahmadinejad surprised Iranians on live TV during a speech at Parliament by showing a damning video featuring one of Larijani's brothers, Fazel, during a discussion with profiteers and a corrupt former prosecutor how to forge an overtly illicit deal.

Ahmadinejad also revealed more about Sadeq Larijani in a video released on YouTube.

Some social media reports say that Fazel Larijani, the man in the video broadcast at the parliament session has left Iran.

Mehraveh Kharazmi, an "Iran newspaper" journalist, opined in a tweet that the attacks on Larijani is a propaganda stunt in favor of the new Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi.

Others have said that attacks on Larijani are part of a bigger plan to side-line some of the ambitious contestants for the post of Supreme Leader and pave the way for a smooth succession after Khamenei.

Conspiracy theorists like this one, maintain that eliminating individuals such as Larijani from among the contestants will narrow down the choices for succession and pave the way for Khamenei's son, Mojtaba to succeed his father.

The Supreme Leader himself has not said anything in public about the development. His silence has so far been taken as his approval of what is happening, although there might be other possible reasons for his mysterious silence if he is well enough to comment.