The internal divisions and infighting within the ruling circles of the Iranian regime has reached unprecedented levels just weeks before the upcoming presidential election.
The move represents a decisive split in the ruling establishment of the regime and heightens tensions between rival camps, leaving the potential for volatile consequences in the wake of this purge. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, this move represents an undeniable blow the power base of the regime and an encouraging sign for those fighting to overthrow the ruling theocracy.
Jacques Mallet du Pan once famously stated, "The Revolution devours its children," but in this case Rafsanjani, who was famously nicknamed "the pillar of the system" and once revered as a stalwart of the founder of this regime, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, and a key player in securing Khamenei's position as supreme leader, now finds himself being pushed out of the regime he helped create.
Rafsanjani was appointed chairman of the Expediency Council by Khamenei himself, and as a member of the Assembly of Experts has a direct say as to fitness of the supreme leader, yet the regime has reached a point in which it is unable to respect its own structures and power sharing arrangements.
Historically, the ruling establishment within the regime has been able to settle internal disputes rather quietly among its key players. The fact that Khamenei has been unable to prevent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's camp from putting forth Mashaei as a candidate, despite the fact that Ahmadinejad's entire political career was formulated by Khamenei, shows just how weakened the supreme leader has become.
As a result of this desperate state, Khamenei was forced to disqualify both Rafsanjani and Mashaei, through the Council of Guardians, creating an embarrassing public spectacle and delegitimizing the regime as a whole.
The reality is that the regime's rank and file are no longer a homogeneous entity and since the discord and chaos of the 2009 elections, many of them have lost faith in Khamenei's judgment as the unquestioned leader of Iran.
Faced with the current dilemma, Khamenei was forced to "pick his poison" in deciding whether to share power with Rafsanjani and thus accept growing opposition within the regime and risk being seen as weak, or making a surgery and purge and risking the threat of radicalizing the opposition. Both present very serious challenges to his survival. The showdown may amount to political suicide for him, but more importantly may mark the beginning of the disintegration of the Iranian regime as a whole.
Similar infighting in 2009 resulted in candidates openly exposing each other's crimes, and harshly condemning the past and present failures of the leadership, a spectacle which opened a crucial window in which 30 years of grievances were aired by the public. The split in the leadership was utilized by the populations to voice their discontent with the regime as a whole, with the chants of "down with the supreme leader" becoming a rallying cry.
The once sacred post of the supreme leader has yet to recover from the de-legitimization of 2009, and Khamenei has continued to lose confidence by those desperate to keep the regime alive.
The present situation has once again validated the opinion of the people that elections in Iran are a meaningless farce, and that the overthrow of the regime remains the only viable alternative.
The most organized Iranian opposition movement, i.e. the National Council of Resistance of Iran under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi and the People's Mujahedin of Iran, have always emphasized on a regime change.
The wishful thinking of Western governments and their failed policy of engagement with the mullahs with a hope of moderation have only extended the life of this regime.
The PMOI resistance, which for years has highlighted the regime's incapacity for reform and has remained steadfast in its demands for a democratic secular republic in Iran, is the only option for a free and stable Iran.
(Firouz Mahvi, is member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Iranian Parliament in Exile . Follow him on Twitter: @FirouzMahvi)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)