In early March, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tried to encourage the people to take part in the Presidential election scheduled for June 2021. At the time, he implicitly signaled that his rivals might be able to take office. In other words, Khamenei intended to gain social acceptance for the regime and his oppressive and aggressive policies inside Iran and abroad.
However, in his latest comments on the occasion of Nowruz, the new year in the Persian calendar, Khamenei retreated from his previous words and paved the path for a one-side election and an obedient administration. He also fueled political rivalries, saying, “The cyberspace needs management.”
The Iranian regime’s 42-year history shows that the mullahs are good managers in the fields of suppression and corruption. Therefore, Khamenei seemingly wants more censorship and even internet blockage, preventing the world from realizing what’s going on in Iran.
Iran’s dictator talked of managing the cyberspace while Iranian officials had continuously bragged about controlling this aspect in the past. On the other hand, the regime had established a massive cyber army to improve ‘soft welfare’ and imported complicated devices and equipment to conquer this field.
Nevertheless, proof by contradiction says that Khamenei and his censorship and cybersecurity apparatuses have been defeated. Also, they see the conquering of cyberspace as a critical means to preserve the untransparent ruling system and do whatever they want with impunity.
Following Khamenei’s speech, Hossein Shariatmadari, the editorial chief of Keyhan daily known as Khamenei’s mouthpiece, blamed President Hassan Rouhani and his administration for the regime’s failure in ‘soft welfare.’
“The enemy is managing the cyberspace,” wrote Shariatmadari addressing ‘reformists.’ In response, Rouhani tied the cyberspace issue with systematic corruption, which has engulfed the entire Islamic Republic regime. “If cyberspace did not exist, combating corruption would be impossible,” said Rouhani.
Notably, to win the 2017 Presidential election, Rouhani pointed out the notorious background of his rival Ebrahim Raisi, the current judiciary chief, in the human rights aspect. Reminding Raisi’s role in extrajudicial executions, particularly the massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, Rouhani said, “In this election, our people would once again announce that they do not want those who only understand the execution and prison in the past 38 years.”
Now, regarding the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) involvement in numerous corruption cases and their bleak economic documents, Rouhani and his proponents have seemingly counted on financial crimes committed by Khamenei’s affiliated individuals like Mohamad Bagher Ghalibaf, the Parliament (Majlis) Speaker, Saeed Mohammad, former chief of IRGC Khatam al-Anbiya Headquarters Construction, or Hossein Dehghan, the former Defense Minister and the current military advisor to Khamenei.
However, Rouhani neglects the volcano of public ire against the entire regime and the people’s slogan, chanting, “Reformists, hardliners, the game is over.” Contrary to so-called moderates, Khamenei sees more contraction as a unique lifeline for the religious dictatorship. He had openly declared his decision for more suppression and restrictions.
But those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind. And as officials had previously issued warnings, the people would care neither for reformists nor principalists in the upcoming protests.