Trump, The Ayatollah And The Wizard Of Oz: A Cyber-space Bomb Against Khamenei

12 February 2018

By Amir Taheri

In his first year as President, Donald J Trump has been credited and more often blamed for numerous things. His admirers credit him with the 32 per cent rise in the American Stock Exchange and the lowest unemployment rate since the Halcyon days of the 1950s.

As for his detractors, well, you know, they blame him for everything they don't like under the sun.

Trump, however, has his barometer of success: the number of followers attracted to his Twitter account.

At a dinner party in his Florida watering hole a few weeks ago, Trump told a friend that his aim was to have at least 100 million Twitter followers by the end of his first term.

Echoing his controversial "my button is bigger than Kim Jung-un's" quip, he also boasted that no political leader came anywhere near him, as far as the number of Twitter followers was concerned.

Do political leaders worry about how many Twitter followers they have?

We have no means of finding out. What is certain is that many politicians share Trump's obsession.

The foreign minister of a country whose total population is under half a million claims he has 2.5 million Twitter followers. His jealous rivals claim he has bought most of those through "twitter marketing" companies operating from Macedonia, for an average price of one dollar for every 1000.

One leader we didn't expect to be worried about his Twitter account is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "Supreme Guide" of the Islamic Republic in Iran. To his entourage he is not only arbiter of Iran's fate but also "Leader of All Muslims in the World" whether they like it or not.

An autodidact polymath, he fancies himself as a poet and author while also doubling as Professor of Applied Theology in a private seminary for students on his payroll.

As his entourage, a chorus of flatterers keeps telling him that all mankind is thirsty for his thoughts, the "Supreme Guide" pens periodical open letters to the "youths of the world". His epistolary exercises are translated into countless languages and distributed by Islamic Republic embassies and Hezbollah branches.

According to daily Kayhan, Khamenei's presence in a province leads to a return of the spring at any season, with birds chirping earlier and flowers blooming while the air acquires an unexplainable fragrance.
As an author, the "Supreme Guide" has produced treatises on many issues including healthy Islamic diet, secrets of a successful marriage, composing poetry, naval warfare, and, last but not least, destroying Israel and America.

None dare question his supremacy.

But that is if one ignores the Twitter which, even if you purchased followers in Macedonia, may still ditch you as a fickle lover might in a tiff.

This seems what happened to the "Supreme Guide" last month when the number of his followers on Twitter fell from 2.2 million on January 1st to just over 960,000 on January 25.

What happened?

Well, really two things.

First we had the uprising that mobilized thousands of peoples in 100 cities across Iran.

The uprising was not the work of traditional opponents of the regime but an expression of anger by "ordinary citizens" from all walks of life.

Also, for the first time, the "Supreme Guide" was denounced by name while regime grandees tried to earn kudos by slyly blaming him for everything. Khamenei made the mistake of going into purdah for almost a week while top officials, notably President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic Chief Justice Sadeq Amoli and even pay-roll ayatollahs such as Makarem Shirazi tried to curry favor with the protesters at the expense of the "Supreme Guide".

Next, a cyber-space bomb was detonated against Khamenei with the publication on the Internet of a video from 1989 depicting the proceedings of the Assembly of experts, a body of mullahs charged with the task of choosing a successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who had died.

In the video, since seen by over 10 million visitors to various websites, we see the late Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime's Machiavellian wheeler-dealer, trying to persuade a horrified Khamenei to accept the post of "Supreme Guide".

The deal offered is: Rafsanjani becomes President in place of Khamenei and Khamenei becomes "Supreme Guide" in place of Khomeini.

We see Khamenei almost shouting that he is wholly unqualified for such a lofty position. He is a junior mullah who has not completed even the first stages of training as a Mujtahid, a person authorized to issue fatwas or opinions on matters of doctrine. It is like promoting an army private to the position of five-star Marshall and Commander-in-Chief.

"We should shed tears of blood for a nation who might even consider me as Leader," Khamenei is heard pleading.

The wily Rafsanjani, however, calms the situation by telling Khamenei that his promotion would be temporary, until a permanent successor is found.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

The temporary becomes permanent and Rafsanjani, who gets the presidency, in time, finds out what Dr. Frankenstein did belatedly.

The publication of the video unleashed a storm because it reveals the ugly truth that the Khomeinist regime has always been founded on lies and subterfuge.

The so-called 'election" also violated Article 109 of the Islamic Constitution under which the "Supreme Guide" must be chosen from among the so-called Maraj'e (Sources of Emulation), that is to say a handful of grand ayatollahs and not just anyone who wore a turban.

The irony is that Khamenei is better educated than Khomeini, his command of Persian and Arabic firmer than that of the late ayatollah. Having spent years studying Khomeini's work to write his biography, I could claim that the late ayatollah was far from qualified to pose as senior theologian, an opinion that almost all top ayatollahs share, albeit in private.

Also, the cult of personality built around Khamenei, though distasteful, is nowhere near the idolatrous chorus barking around Khomeini.

Even when it comes to such evil records as the number of executions and political prisoners, Khamenei is still far from nearing Khomeini's criminal record.

I don't know if Khamenei still believes that he is not qualified to be "Supreme Guide".

In any case, it doesn't matter now. What matters is that the whole "Supreme Guide" rigmarole and the mythology built around it has been exposed as a sham.

Khamenei reminds one of the Wizard of Oz who knew he was no wizard but couldn't escape the role because others needed him to pose as one.

The Wizard of Oz had no Twitter account. But had he had one he would have felt the same pain of being shunned as Khamenei is these days.

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987


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