The recent arrest in Tehran of Hossein Mousavian, former ambassador to Russia and Germany and former member of the nuclear negotiating team, on espionage charges shows a growing rift in the leadership of the Islamic Republic. Mohammad Atrianfar, a close ally of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and a leading member of Rafsanjani’s political party, Kargozaran, said the government’s goal is to create a police state atmosphere in the country. Atrianfar points to the increased influence of the Revolutionary Guards and Basijis in President Ahmadinejad’s government, strengthening anti-democratic and unlawful tendencies within the regime.
Basijis are said to number more than 8 million across the country. They were mobilized during the 2005 presidential elections and reportedly tipped the results in favor of Ahmadinejad. The Revolutionary Guards are 500,000 strong, heavily armed with their own ground, air and naval forces. The Guards also run their own web of businesses, with their own ports and airports, and have emerged as one of the leading economic forces in the country.
Aside from the growing influence of the Guards and the Basijis in the current government, Ahmadinejad has brought in a number of intelligence officials with fundamentalist political tendencies into his cabinet and his inner circle. The latest appointment is that of Ruhollah Hosseinian as his advisor on security affairs. Hosseinian is linked to the infamous serial murders when a number of political activists and intellectuals were killed by intelligence agents closely associated with him.
Creating a police state atmosphere might be the easiest way governments believe they can handle the problems facing them. Ahmadinejad might be the latest in a long line of leaders to follow the path. The growth of popular movements in recent months, women, students, teachers and workers, coupled with a general anxiety across the country because of an unbearable inflation and the talks of war is undermining the authority of the government. Using police state tactics will undoubtedly make the movements grow more rapidly and will make the people even unhappier. Ahmadinejad might be the latest in a long line of leaders to make such fatal mistake.