Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei engaged in another political gamble about the Iran nuclear deal, known by the acronym JCPOA, and the return of the US government to it.
This gambling exposed his fragile position even more. The supreme leader, clumsily copying Ruhollah Khomeini, the regime’s founder, in his letter to Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of Soviet Union, wrote a letter to the Russian president Vladimir Putin and handed it to Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Iran’s parliament speaker, to deliver to him.
Qalibaf also expected that like past meetings of Qasem Soleimani and Ali Akbar Velayati, he would also be accepted in similar meetings with Vladimir Putin, as usual.
It can be said that Khamenei, by delegating the role of special mailman to Qalibaf, has given him some privileges. The privilege that Qalibaf, the ambitious speaker of parliament, desperately needed in the war for power between the factions and members of the regime to seize the place of the upcoming presidency.
Showing a failure as a victory
Contrary to all the noise and the propaganda and related exaggeration by Iran’s government, it was suddenly announced that the Russian president had refused to accept Qalibaf. Instead of acknowledging the failure of this trip, the state-run website Tasnim on February 6, 2021 reacted to this news and wrote:
“Mojtaba Tavangar, the representative of the people of Tehran in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, wrote on his personal Twitter page:
“‘The news that I informed about the finalization of Dr. Qalibaf’s meeting with Vladimir Putin was not accurate and confirmed. Of course, the meeting with the Russian President has been on the agenda and is being planned, but the meeting with Putin in Russia has special protocols that Dr. Qalibaf has not accepted. And that is why the important message that the speaker of the parliament will carry during this trip will be presented in the meeting with the representative introduced by Putin.’”
The news was published in such a way that it seems that it was the Qaliabf who did not accept the special protocols. Jahan-e-Sanat daily, in an article titled ‘Moscow Failure’, quotes Mohammad Mohajerani, a journalist affiliated with Khamenei’s faction, as saying:
“Shame on me that the people around my country’s parliament speaker, just for his photo with Putin, are falsifying the date of the meeting to be used in the 2021 election. Then they repeatedly beg the Russian ambassador and when they hear a ‘no,’ they falsely say that we did not accept the Russian protocol. There was no such humiliation and abasement in the Qajar period.”
According to the content of one of the government dailies, they have begged the Russians to meet with Qalibaf.
“Where was the problem that Putin did not make an appointment with Qalibaf, when it was previously announced that the speaker of the parliament would carry out a coronavirus test both at the Iranian airport and in Moscow?
“It seems that Qalibaf’s media team and young advisers were horrified and took only one request for granted and made it public. Maybe they thought Putin would definitely make an appointment with Qalibaf! The truth was revealed when a conservative media activist tweets that insisting on ‘meeting with Putin’ was wrong from the start.”
The state media expressed them in such a way, that if someone else of the government had carry out the mission, other than Qalibaf, they would be able to accomplish the mission.
Some attribute the failure of this trip to ignorance of diplomatic etiquette. Of course, in the meantime, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani’s faction also raises the issue that they have ignored the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Rouhani government and bypassed it.
What has been covered up with the state media and deliberately ignored in the power struggle is the decline of Khamenei’s position. Qalibaf’s was the bearer of Khamenei’s message. Regardless of the propaganda goals for Qalibaf, it should not be forgotten that this is the whole regime, headed by Khamenei, who has failed to achieve his goal. Khamenei is not in a position to bet on the JCPOA or behave like Khomeini. His fragile position is now visible not only within the regime and among the factions, but also outside the governing body.