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June 17th, 2009
09:37 AM ET

Expert: Iran's supreme leader could oust Ahmadinejad

Karim Sadjadpour tells CNN's John Roberts that Iran's supreme leader may be faced with a dilemma to sacrifice himself or President Ahmadinejad.

Karim Sadjadpour tells CNN's John Roberts that Iran's supreme leader may be faced with a dilemma to sacrifice himself or President Ahmadinejad.

Pressured by a fourth day of street protests, Iran is clamping down. Reporters have been confined to their rooms and they're jamming phones and radio transmissions in Iran.

Karim Sadjadpour is an Iranian expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.

John Roberts: Where do you see this ending?

Karim Sadjadpour: It’s difficult to say, John. A lot of it depends on what the opposition leaders decide they want to do. Certainly there's a tremendous sense of outrage in Tehran. Not only in Tehran, throughout the country there’s a tremendous sense of injustice that these young people have. At the same time, it’s a country which endured an eight-year war with Iraq. People are allergic to the prospect of further carnage and bloodshed and violence. But at the moment, I think there's truly a sense of outrage and I see these protests continuing.

Roberts: The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the government have told people to stay inside. The IRGC is saying if you put up certain materials on blog sites you could face legal charges. How big of a role is the Revolutionary Guard Corps and this paramilitary organization, the Basij, playing in trying to tamp down these protests?

Sadjadpour: They're playing a definitive role. But what’s been amazing is they haven't dissuaded people from going in to the streets. Historically, when the regime has announced that the Basij and the Revolutionary Guard are authorized to use force to shoot people, that will quell the protests. But so far, we haven’t seen the protests really quelled. The other day there were several hundred thousand people in Tehran. And it just gives you an idea of how outraged people feel that they're willing to go out in to the streets and risk their lives.

Roberts: And this ruling Guardian Council, which has said it will recount certain parts of the election. Of course, Moussavi and his supporters are calling for a new election. How far do you think they will go in that? Are they playing for time here, hoping all of the protests will die down and eventually people will get tired of going out in the streets and accept the results of the election? Or might this actually lead to a new election? Can they resist the will of the people?

Sadjadpour: The Guardian Council is not like our Supreme Court. It's not an objective entity. It's essentially under the hegemony of Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader. And I think Khamenei deferred to the Guardian Council simply as a tactical move to buy time. But Khamenei may be faced with a dilemma and it may be one day soon, whether to sacrifice President Ahmadinejad or sacrifice himself. Because it’s really gotten to the point where people are calling for the head of Khamenei. And this is unprecedented in the last 20 years.

Roberts: Khamenei has been supreme leader since 1989. This is, as you suggest, all about his survival as well. Right now he’s hitched his wagon to Ahmadinejad who's got the loyalty of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij. Can you foresee any circumstances under which he might, for his own survival, throw Ahmadinejad overboard?

Sadjadpour: I think it's certainly within the realm of possibilities. And I would argue, John, Ahmadinejad doesn't necessarily have the loyalty of the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij. I was based in Iran for a couple of years and I spoke to many of these young people within the IRGC and Basij who recognize that this “death to America” culture of 1979 is obsolete today and Iran will never achieve its full potential unless there’s reform made in the political, economic, social realm. So I think we shouldn’t take for granted the fact that all of the regime’s shock troops are necessarily going to side with President Ahmadinejad.

Roberts: What will it take to initiate that huge fracture? As we see now, the Guard Corps and the Basij are on the side of the government.

Sadjadpour: We have to get inside the head of Ayatollah Khamenei…his world view is very clear. When you’re under siege, never compromise. Because if you compromise it’s going to project weakness. If he orders a mayor clampdown, I think we may start to see fissures within the regime’s shock troops.


Filed under: Iran
soundoff (227 Responses)
  1. Free Iran

    Iranians are mystics/romantics/poets/engineers/learned; They are not butchers of their own people. That task has been left up to the Basij who Arab fundamentalist and terrorist from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and other extremist countries who are on the payroll of the biggest fake Iranians: the clerics that run the government. Reports are coming out now that the Basij who are raping the people of Iran don't even speak Farsi but Arabic. An Iranian could not shoot a women, pummel a child, or shoot a person in the back.We are watching a very sneaky type of genocide where Iran and its true people are being exterminated and the world is being deceived that it is the Iranians that are doing it to themselves. On the contrary these people who are ruining Iran and destroying its culture are anything but Persian. They are the scum from the surroundings who want to take the jewel of the Middle East. UN, the West, where are you? What little modernization and freedom you see in Iran is because of the Persians, the originators of Human Rights. Why isn't the world reporting this angle?

    June 25, 2009 at 11:42 pm |
  2. Gman

    America is winning !
    You have your great leaders now we have ours. Divide and conquer is the American way.
    For example North Korea – South Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan and many more examples to long to list !
    Our Leaders have bamboozled our public and effectively censored our media (like with yours).
    They have one message for you and one for us. We are proud of our President (The New world Leader), he is a very effective and crafty speaker.
    As a Christian people we know that all races are sacred and that we should mind our own business, but many of our leaders have no real lasting commitment. Each word that is spoken is carefully planned to manipulate a certain audience.
    If anyone thinks USA doesn’t have a hand in this -seriously reconsider-. He will force compromise on the “peace process”, and leave the Mid-East in turmoil as long as it serves our purposes.
    The American war protesters are now silenced entirely and human rights have been forgotten, for that we are sorry. We are however proud of our Presidents and doubt you will break from their spell.
    In America we say “yes we can” and abroad “we are doing it”.

    My response to "Fallacy of Appeal to Pity: Iran Protests!" – it is better to receive reprimand from your brother than a kiss from the enemy. It would seem that your enemy's want to break your power which was unity. Change is just a clever word, a hypnotic suggestion. (now we see the power of one little word and look at how the world is changing-not-good). Isreal-America-Obama keeping his word, (IRAN falls)

    June 20, 2009 at 11:45 pm |
  3. 444 DAYS

    Any Iranians or Iranian Americans asking for our help needs to remember the embarrassment their joke of a country gave us in 1979. You want our help? Overthrow your government and renounce Islam altogether.

    The only reason that psycho cult has even spread at all the last few decades is because your country gave the poor and uneducated masses in the Middle East the false hope that an entire GOVERNMENTAL SYSTEM could be built around a superstitious myth.

    Remember the 52 for 444 in 1979! Say what you're thinking, O Western Civilization: there's nothing to fear anymore! This is the beginning of the end of Muslim oppression!

    June 17, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  4. Liz

    Overthrow their government? What is wrong with you people? We don't have nearly the resources or public support for something so drastic. Why don't we focus on fixing our own country first.

    Maybe if more people had taken to the streets in America, we wouldn't have had to suffer through Bush these last 8 years as a result of our own stolen election. Those brave Iranians out there risking their lives in protest make us look like a nation of cowards.

    June 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  5. Todd Rules

    To: Todd Rules is a Fool

    Not to get off topic....but....

    I would have expected such a response from the left. No content with no meaning. Change only you can believe in. Remember that when you have to go through 3 levels of govenrment to get an MRI (and if they have money in the budget for it).

    P.S. I didn't vote for Bush either time, I am against war as a first answer, and a patriot that served his country proudly.

    – Small government!! – Fair Tax!! – Constitution First!!

    June 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  6. CC in KC

    When I was in school I dated an Iranian for about a year.
    He and his friends were all going to KU to become engineers.

    That was the best time of MY LIFE.

    They were ALL the nicest people.
    Loved their families, friends & believed in RESPECT.

    We never spoke of the politics of his country, but I did overhear fear of the Shah.

    If you are out there Shadi, I still think of you!

    June 17, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  7. Da Professor

    Thank God we have Obama as President now. If McCain and his "buddy" Palin were elected, we would be invading and bombing Iran by now and thousands of Americans would be dieing in the streets of Iran.

    Of course we would also be hearing from Cheney, Hannity, Rush, O'Reilly, Coulter and friends from the extreme right that our soldiers would be handed flowers as they entered Iran.

    The Repubs just don't get it. You cannot force our form of Democracy down the throats of others. And, you cannot force your values down the throats of Americans. Unfortunately, we found in the past 8 years that the Repubs values included blantant lying, arrogance, hypocrisy, and other goose stepping nonsense.

    June 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  8. Mikey sees

    All this bantering and arguing back and forth only creates damaging propaganda and jaded, uninformed points of view that don't do anybody d@mn bit of good. Obama did his job by giving the Iranian people hope for a better future. Its up to the Iranian people to realize this dream, not the ideolistic view of every backwater American intellectual. Although Obama stated that we should all work together to create a peaceful middle east and American relationship attempting to get involved in this confrontation between the Iranian goverment and its people will only create a media storm of biased views and propaganda. Even though this has already begun we will not be held accountable for any actions. Sure, argue amongst yourselves. In the end it is meaningless garble and will be forgotten.

    June 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  9. Jake

    This looks like the end of a regime. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad cannot count on the loyalty of the military for much longer ... they have family getting their butts kicked while peacefully protesting.

    I imagine a coup will result in the near future ... Ahmadinejad and his followers will probably be executed. The result? ... an Iran that is a true democracy with its people having honest elections and freedoms.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  10. bob

    There are many very good comments on this article. However, can someone please clearify how the so-called 'Western media' is actually interfering? Since when is reporting a news story from anywhere 'interferring'? Are their Western reporters in Iran organizing some sort of overthrow of the government? When did you hear American citizens crying to the world to stop interfering in US business when the world has reported on news from the US? As far as I can tell those protesting in Iran are IRANIANS. Is this incorrect?

    thanks all

    June 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  11. Todd Rules is a Fool

    Todd and Todd Rules,

    Hmmmm... now boys (or girls) you do seem to be out numbered in the current debate. Your suggested responses to Iran seem to be closely aligned to the Revolutionary guard and the Basij. Brute force always wins? is that what you are advoacting? I cannot help but think that you both need to explore your inner insecurities (and demons) – and to be fair to you both I do not think I should explore such issues as bed wetting, homophobia, and parental (maternal?) relationships on this post.

    However I would suggest you explore options within your healthcare plan that assist with anger management and/or psychological counseling. Good luck – we are all here for you!

    Finally remember YES YOU CAN. 🙂

    June 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  12. Wilbur 57

    Actually Ali, you got it wrong and in fact the opposite happened. The Nazi SA (the brownshirts) were becoming too violent and Ernst Rohm wanted more control so Hitler ordered the S.S. to eliminate the S.A. which included the assassination of Ernst Rohm, the head of the S.A. This is the real story of the Night of the Long Knives.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Joyce

    It's amazing how the blind GOP bloggers here do not see Obama's influence in these events. His message to the Iranian people resonated. There is no reason to hate America. That's the bottom line.

    If the terrorist, the likes of Ahmadinejad have no reason to fight, there will be no hatred therefore no cause for their existence. No one would join their cause.
    It's a simple plan of diplomacy that is obviously working. Even Pat Buchanan recognize this brilliant and simple policy that Obama has taken to the world.

    Please take the blinders off. People hate bullies. That's the perception America had for many years that is why there are people who want this country obliterated. Now they have no reason to do so.
    Get it, it's really that simple.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  14. vision

    This is a reply to RAM:

    Historically speaking, Persia/Iran has been at best only as bad as the United States in meddling with other nations and cultures and in truth has been much much worse. It's interesting how cultures and peoples can become so righteous when they either do not have the power or desire power over others. The time has come for the World to stop pointing fingers at the United States for all their problems and start standing up for their own shortfalls and their own injustices. The time of pointing fingers and blaming others has passed. The peoples of nations whose governments have suppressed, prosecuted and punished them for decades need to become aware of who they are and whom they wish to be. Stop pointing a finger at the United States and blaming it for EVERYTHING wrong with one's own nation and people. This includes Iranians in and out of Iran. If you want your nation to be something other than it is then DO SOMETHING about it ! The time of pointing fingers and crying about it has past. The time to create, to emerge, to stand up, to breath free air and envision freedom of thought and will in your own nation is yours to choose, but stop for all time blaming the United States for every damn problem in the World.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Anthony Rodriguez

    The women there are hot. They are hording the goods. Let those fine ladies out of there! We don't need no stinkin' veils.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  16. Ray

    So what makes us think we know whats best for another country?
    Did we give moral or actual support to the student uprising in China?
    How is Iraq working out for us? Or Afghanistan?
    America needs to come to the realization we are not the world`s policeman, nor do we know what is best for other nations.
    We should worry about ourselves for a change, economy in tatters, broken government, failed 2 party system....
    Yes it is so clear we have a moral leg to stand on to preach to other nations as to how they should govern themselves.
    How did we do in Florida in 2000?
    Seriously?

    June 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Ron

    The U.S. should not interfere in Iranian politics. Allow Israel to drop the bomb on Tehran and let American companies come in and rebuild. Coming soon to a theatre near you: WWIII.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm |
  18. Arash Parsi

    As the people in Iran ask "Where is my vote?, we Iranian Ameican ask "Wehre is President Obama?". Does he want to side with Iranian people or negotiate with illegimate Iranian regime?

    June 17, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  19. Bodhi

    I think its very brave of the Iranian people to stand up in unity in this way. It shows that this movement toward opening new possibilities has begun to spread. We should give the young people a chance to make their countries and the world a better place.
    THe only major question is what will happen under Moussavi. Moussavi has always taken a very strong anti-American position in the past and is rooted in the Revolution. Will he continue Irans isolation from the West? I think this is what the young people around the world are afriad of. That Moussavis regime will not accept the idea of the "New Beginning" alot of us young Americans want so much.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  20. Honest1inVA

    Gee, the part about posting certain things on websites resulting in legal action reminds me of OUR government scrutinizing those who sported Ron Paul bumper stickers and labeling them terror threats!
    Not much difference anymore between the US and Iran. Osama-Bama won't stick his nose in because he has NO business trying to tell Iran how to run a fair election since he and his friends in the Liberal media managed to pull off the biggest SCANDAL in election history right here in the good old USA!
    I hope the good people of Iran get hold of Ahmadenijhad and tear him limb from limb! That would surely send a message of hope to those of us here at home who are tired of our own government's oppression!!!! Take the hint Obama!

    June 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  21. Soudabeh

    I am not sure where President Carter is hiding now. He himself as the messenger of Human Rights.... how he downgraded the Shah and magnified his Savak, how come he is quite now? Was it Human Rights that you were protesting about, Mr. Carter or was it the all about "Oil?"

    Has he seen the images of the savageries on the streets of Iran? Just go on YouTube, create an account (viewer discretion is advised), so you can see the barbaric way the young men and women are killed on the streets by the Basij, the Arab militia they have imported and the plain clothes revolutionary guards. Absolutely unbelievable....

    June 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  22. 444 DAYS

    Oh, so NOW the Iranian people want our help? What kind of position does that put us in? When we took a hard line with them they got all nationalist and rallied behind Ahmadinejihad. Now that we're taking a softer stance the Iranians are holding up signs in English and begging for us to help.

    So clearly, showing that we intended to deal with them on a level playing field got at least the people of Iran to look to us for help. However, it's just this kind of fickle attitude that shows me, at least, that they would be nothing but a fair-weather ally until they were in a position to screw us.

    We should absolutely give them our help. In the form of bombs, tanks and occupation. Iran cannot govern itself. They are a backward people who capitulated to wacky cultists and shamed our nation in 1979. We should absolutely take this opportunity to finally finish the job.

    Remember the 52 for 444 in '79!!

    June 17, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  23. Mike

    People need to stand up now. This is the time?

    June 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  24. Mo

    I'm an Iranian-American and I can tell you how glad i am that Obama is in place. He is making all the right moves. The current government in Iran is looking for any excuse to somehow connect this grassroot protest to some kind of CIA operation like the one in the 1950's that ended up with a coup against a democratically-elected government and replaced by the dictator, shaw. The best thing we can do is not do a lot of talking on tv that makes us feel good but ends up with a disasterous outcome for the protesters. The best way to support them is by making sure the gateway of information stays open so that their voices are heard throughout the world. For the first time in 30 years the world is hearing the true voice the Persians and what they stand for. Until now we've heard from the religious, uneducated minorities of Iran. I've never been so proud of my Persian heritage than I am this week and owe that to all the brave souls in the streets of Iran for their courage and heroism. Thank you all.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  25. S W

    worried about demonstrators.. wish that no more bloodshed..

    June 17, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  26. DK

    Some people are commenting on "totaliatarian nature of their government ". Do the same people remember thousands of pewople protested in USA and UK and all over Europe about the Iraq invasion and the false WMD story. Did our 'totalitarion government " listen? Don't these people have double standards? Iran is an independent soverign nation. Leave them alone and let them sort out their own issues. Did anyone interfere in our affairs even though hundreds of thousand of people protested against the Iraq war? I don't think so!
    Let the Iranians deal with their problems themselves. Enough intereference by the West in the Middle East as it already is.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  27. Ian M Gumby

    Its interesting to read the comments.

    First, IMHO I think that the article is spot on. At least as an opinion piece the opinion expressed seems to be based on facts.

    Second, I wonder how much spin control the Iranian government is doing? Some of the posters with 'Western' names seem to be pro government and a bit in denial about the uprising going on in Iran.

    Third, I think that some of the Persian posters who have ties to Iran have provided some very important insight. Clearly we can see evidence of the rioting and we know the reasoning behind the riots. So I think its safe to assume that if there is enough evidence for people to take to the streets for 4 days now, then the allegations of the election being fixed holds some merit.

    Iran is currently a theocracy. If the riots continue and the current government is overthrown it would appear that Iran would move closer to a democracy. I think that the majority of the world would welcome that news. One would also hope that they realize that they can become a regional super power without nuclear weapons and that if they can use their influence over the Hezbollah then they can further strengthen their position as a regional power by bringing peace to the Palestinian/Isreal conflict.

    There are serious implications if the rioting continues and the theocracy is threatened. Please understand that if the theocracy is replaced, Khomeni ?sp? would still be the spiritual leader of the Shia, and would still have a lot of influence over the government.

    June 17, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
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