Iran’s recent elections were hailed by some as a crowning democratic achievement, with “reformists” winning many of the key elections. While it was welcome news that former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disqualified, recent claims by Iran’s real leader, the Ayatollah, cast doubt on whether there is any real reason to celebrate. Since “all of the candidates had to be pre-approved by Iran’s Guardian Council, the contest is effectively between different conservative factions,” meaning that Hassan Rouhani’s win was likely at best the least of all possible evils.
The Trump administration is currently formulating its policy regarding regime change in Iran. As a candidate, Donald Trump was far more critical of certain instances of regime change than he is in many cases as president. While POLITICO reports that “an explicit affirmation of regime change in Iran as a policy is not really on the table,” Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Khamenei decided to enter the fray by resorting to Trump’s favorite means of communication: Twitter. This isn’t the first time Khamenei has resorted to social media to boast after Iran launched strikes in Syria, posting on Instagram that “they cannot slap us. We will slap them.”
Khamenei’s mini-tweetstorm consisted of three statements.
This one is laughable on its own. Most Arab countries only care about the Palestinians when they can be used to their advantage, and treat them horribly when they are within their borders. In fact, Khaled Abu Toameh blames “Jordan and other Arab countries [for] driving them into the open arms of extremists, especially Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.” In fact, the terrorist group Black September (behind the Munich Olympics attacks) was “founded in 1971 to seek retribution on Jordan’s military and to assassinate Jordan’s King Hussein after they forcefully confronted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during an attempt to seize power from the monarch in September 1970.” Palestine might be the number one issue for the Islamic world, but only when it comes to looking for a way to discredit Israel.
Khamenei then asserts that “Jihad–in any form possible” is necessary to reclaim lands that Muslims once occupied. Does this apply to the areas of Spain formerly occupied by Muslims? Probably not. Does it apply to Israel? Certainly. Israel has already seen drastic upticks in attacks in the past few months, and Khamenei likely knows that someone will inevitably take up his cause.
Khamenei finally states that it is a wajid (religious obligation) of all Muslims to “fight against the Zionist regime.” He then seeks to delegitimize his opposition by asking “why do some evade this duty?” Khamenei is an incredibly significant religious figure, and as such his proclamation must be taken incredibly seriously.
While Iran is not an Arab country, it almost had its own version of the Arab Spring during its Green Revolution, which was ultimately suppressed by its government while the United States stood by.
Khamenei has immense power and sway over Iranians, but he likely has less sway to the billions of people who don’t live under the yoke of his power in Iran, despite his best efforts to fit immense amounts of his deflection into 140 characters or less.