Although the Iranian government denies it, it seems likely that someone attempted to assassinate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, while he was being driven to Hamadan to give a speech on Iran’s nuclear energy research program.
Ahmadinejad recently faced strikes by the artisans, merchants, money-changers and shopkeepers of the bazaar or traditional marketplace. In some ways, this protest against tax increases was more challenging to the regime than the Green Movement protests of summer-fall, 2009. The bazaar classes have often led movements to topple governments in modern Iran, and they were the ones who bankrolled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1978-79 revolution against the then shah or king. They had not joined in last summer’s political protests.
Had Ahmadinejad been assassinated, would it have mattered. In some ways yes, in others, no.
Theocratic Leader Ali Khamenei is the real center of power. He is commander in chief of the army forces and head of intelligence. He appoints 500 key high officials. Ahmadinejad could not even appoint a minor vice president without Khamenei’s approval.
So a different president would not necessarily mean a change in policy.
Moreover, Khamenei has tinkered with the Iranian electoral procedures so as to strenghthen the hard liners. In 2004 he forbade some 3500 candidates to run for parliament because they were considered too liberal.
So likely Khamenei would arranged for Ahmadinejad to be succeeded by some other marginal personality.
But an assassination would have been consequential in other ways if it had been successful. Ahmadinejad is colorful in a bad way, and some of the bad impression he has made of Iran is personal and would not be replicated by a successor. His ignorant and offensive way of speaking about Israel or about the Iranian nuclear research program would not necessarily be replicated by even a hard line successor.
Such an assassination would throw Iranian politics into turmoil for a while. The Green Movement might be able to take advantage of it. It would much delay any Israeli or US attack on Iran, since likely the anti-Iran forces would have to take a wait and see attitude until a new president consolidated his position
I don’t wish anyone ill. But I wanted to insist that this incident could not be dismissed as irrelevant.