January 22, 2022
Smaller conservative parties in Iran have become more active recently, in what could be a design to shape politics more to the liking of the Supreme Leader.
Every week a new conservative group emerges on the Iranian political scene. Groups that already existed but were less visible, are given a wider exposure on national TV.
Even compared to Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and his aides who call themselves “neo-cons,” the new conservatives, the likes of Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, are far more ruthless in their quest for power, according to some local media.
While traditional conservatives started forging alliances following former President Hassan Rouhani’s victory in the 2013 presidential election, this time, it is a new generation of conservatives that is marching to occupy positions of power and to get ready for the next parliamentary elections in February or March 2024.
Last week, the party known as the Selfless Devotees of the Islamic Revolution held its congress in Tehran. With two other parties, The Society of Sacrificial Warriors, and the Society of Wayfarers, the three groups are known in the Iranian political circles as the Conservative Triplet. The names these groups use can be defined as super-revolutionary labels, but in fact their leaders are nothing more than typical political actors in an authoritarian system who want a bigger piece of the pie.
Currently, Iran’s parliament is dominated by the hardliner Paydari group, which has not always followed signals coming from the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The re-emergence of the triplet with new momentum, could be Khamenei’s policy to introduce them as his favorite so that they could replace Paydari in 2024.
Apart from their leaders, most of the members of the three parties have been hitherto unknown. The Sacrificial Warriors come from a background of former revolutionary guards (IRGC), the Wayfarers are former, or current Basij militia members and the Selfless Devotees are the family members of the veteran soldiers of the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
After Alireza Zakani took office as the Tehran Mayor last summer, many of the members of the Sacrificial and the Wayfarers have joined the Tehran municipality as managers. Meanwhile, as some newspapers in Tehran have noted, members of all the three parties frequently take part in news and current affairs programs on state television in a bid to build recognition and credibility for the future.
The Selfless Devotees have their roots in a pre-1979-armed group, which would have been characterized as terrorist if it was active today. The group’s name was Saf (Rank) and its members included Yahya Rahim Safavi the former IRGC commander and the current military adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Low-ranking members of that group included current IRGC General Esmail Kowsari who has been a member of the Iranian parliament three times so far and every time he immediately went back to the IRGC to serve as a security officer. Kowsari was, for some time, the secretary-general of the party.
All three groups were formed in the 2000s when the IRGC was beginning to become a major political and economic power in Iran.
Among the three groups, the Sacrificial Warriors is politically more important than the others and has been involved in making all the major decisions of the conservative camp. Former President Ahmadinejad was a member of the central council of this party when he became Iran’s president in 2005. Its members include powerful conservative politicians such as Ali Darabi and Hassan Fadaei. The former was the deputy chief of the state television under three different heads of the state TV.
It appears that the three groups are preparing to seize the parliament and dominate the presidential administration as the “young revolutionaries” Khamenei wants for his ‘second step of the revolution,’ his jargon for his vision of Iran in the next 40 years.