By Track Persia

August 25, 2018

Iran’s theocracy, officially headed by Ali Khamenei – who claims that he represents God on Earth – is said to have been taken over by Iran’s Islamic Guards Corps (IRGC)’s leading officers and that Khamenei and his close associates have become “hostages by the IRGC’s extremist leaders.

Critics of Khamenei’s theocracy today say this is exactly what has been happening since it was first revealed to the ruling elite that Khamenei suffered from leukaemia several years ago. These allegations have strongly been denied by the IRGC’s command under Maj-Gen Muhammad Ali Ja’fari.

These allegations remind us of the situation in Persia in the 16th century AD when the Kizilbash, or Qizilbash (the red-turbaned), the guards of the monarchy of the first Safawi (or Safavid) dynasty. Qizilbash is the Turkoman name of Shah Ismail-I’s armed guards.

The Safawid empire had reached its zenith by 1510 in both geopolitical and theocratic terms. By 1522, two years before Shah Isma’il-I died, a forced separation occurred between the religious establishment and the state, which became noticeable to the public.

The Qizilbash, who had seen in Ismail the manifestation of God, began to show clearly that, although they preserved the outward forms, they considered the concept of their leader as an immortal and infallible person to be a fiction. From then on, the decline was steady and gradually the Qizilbash held their rulers hostage.

The dynasty of Ismail-I faded away in the 18th century. By then the rulers’ descents had ended up getting different features, such as being blonde with blue eyes because their mothers and wives were of Georgian origin. In religious terms, they had distanced themselves far from Ja’fari Shi’ite piousness, consequently, they were described as being as bad as atheists. These accusations were based on the fact that these rulers had adopted Western styles of living and had become excessively corrupt and negligent – hence exceptionally weak. That situation led Persia to fall into chaos until a nationalist and mostly secular form of government emerged.

Ismail-I died in 1524 and was succeeded by his son Tahmasp, then aged almost 11. The era witnessed ten years of civil war among rival Qizilbash factions, as one chief tried to usurp the shah’s authority from another. With doctrinal unity imposed throughout the Safawid dominions, the influence of the Sadr (religious leader) who was a political appointee decreased.

In 1534, Tahmasp insisted that he wanted to rule in fact, not only in name. However, for most of his 52-year reign, he had a precarious relationship with the turbulent Qizilbash. He was a miser, melancholy recluse who swung between extremes of abstinence and intemperance, and was capable of great cruelty.  Nonetheless, Tahmasp was successful in holding the Safawi state together in the face of the most determined Ottoman onslaughts under their greatest conqueror, Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent.

Any mention of the description that IRGC being a modern version of the Qizilbash is summarily rejected by the current commanders of IRGC leading officers who are accused of being excessively ambitious and corrupt. This has come as Iran’s economy has since early July 2018 kept imploding further. The theocracy is globally held responsible for a steady decline in Iran’s living standard because of the widespread corruption within Iran’s theocracy along with the growing pressure the US has imposed on Iran.

The US President Donald Trump has recently asked his oil-rich allies to produce as much as the global market requires. Trump intends to put maximum pressure on the theocracy to end all purchases of Iranian oil before the November 4th  US mid-term elections. He seems he wants to remove the bulk of Iran’s 2.5 million barrel per day supply from the market.  The result will likely increase in the theocracy’s isolation.

Internally, the theocracy is suffering from the suffocating dilemma of the rapid fall in the buying power of Iran’s national currency, the rial. Each US dollar is currently worth much over 1,200 Iranian rials. As a result, there have been violent riots all over Iran. Rioters have been shouting “Death to the Dictator [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei]”.  This has caused well-off Iranians to leave the country and those who cannot leave have realised that living in Iran has become too costly.

In conclusion, it is only a matter of time for Iran to publicly appear as a glass-house.

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.