The man who holds the future of Iran in his hands is a cleric who is maintaining a public silence:  Mohammed Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, "the 75-year-old conservative oligarch who has enormous power over the Revolutionary Guards and Basiji militia," Robert Fisk said Tuesday in a column published on Tuesday by the London Independent.[1]  --  "And if Ali Khamenei fails in his duty as Supreme Leader," wrote Fisk, "then who might step into the shoes of the Leader himself?  Many in Iran suspect that this is the very position to which Mesbah-Yazdi aspires."  --  NOTE: Many readers dispute Fisk's point, but one writes:  "The mention of Yazdi shows your excellent and deep understanding of Iran and the power structure of the ruling mafia class.  As a close observer of the country, I have been surprised that Ayatollah Yazdi's name is never mentioned.  However, the other main characters of significance are Ayatollah Jannati, who is Yazdi's connection to the Parliamant, and Morteza Khamenei (the supreme leader's son) who is Yazdi's connection to the supreme leader.  It is widely believed that it is, in fact, Morteza Khamenei who is direct contact with the Basij militia, and has ordered the execution of Mr. Mousavi's nephew.  Of note, there was a move recently in Qom to grant Morteza Khamenei the title of Ayatollah.  Ayatollah Montezari, San'ii, and several others voiced extreme opposition.  The insider have stated that Mesbah Yazdi and Jannati has promised to grant him the title.  --  One more issue of importance:  What connects Mesbah Yazdi, Jannati, and Ahmadinejad is their involvement in an group called "the Hojjatieh," an ultra-conservative religious group whose main belief revolves around the return of the Mahdi.  This is the reason, when Mr. Ahmadijenad opens his speeches he strangely does not quote from the Quran, rather he recites a prayer from a haith, that calls for the return of "the Mahdi."  You see this prayer on his official presidential website.  --  Due to their apocalyptic views, Hojjatieh was banned by the Ayatollah Khomeini after the revolution and their leader Ayatollah Halabi sidelined."  --  BACKGROUND: As for Mesbah-Yazdi's views, the Wikipedia article referenced above states that he "believes an 'Islamic republic' is a contradiction in terms, as a truly Islamic government would not hold elections as an opportunity for voters to make choices between representatives and policies, but to express their allegiance to the supreme faqih.  He believes that 'the republican component' was established in Iran as a concession to secular forces and should be 'stripped' away to leave the true essence of the "Islamic system."  He has been quoted as saying, 'It doesn't matter what the people think. The people are ignorant sheep.'" ...

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Commentators

Columnists

THE SILENT CLERIC WHO HOLDS THE KEY TO IRAN'S FUTURE

By Robert Fisk

Independent (London)
December 29, 2009

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-the-silent-cleric-who-holds-the-key-to-irans-future-1852108.html

We like to believe -- and newspapers and television like us to believe -- that the battle for Iran is being fought on the streets of Tehran, of Isfahan, of Najafabad.  Untrue.

The future of the nation is being decided in Qom, among the clerical leaders of Iranian Shia Islam; and one of the most influential of them -- perhaps the closest of all the ayatollahs to President Ahmadinejad -- is silent.

Just why Mohammed Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, a member of the Assembly of Experts -- the clerics who choose the "Supreme Leader" of Iran -- should refrain from comment at such a critical and violent period of the Islamic Republic's history, is unclear.

But we can be sure that he remains in constant contact with the president whose dubious re-election provoked the street demonstrations, killings, and subsequent judicial tortures and deaths in Iran.

For if Ahmadinejad has a mentor in Iran, it is not Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, but Mesbah-Yazdi, the 75-year-old conservative oligarch who has enormous power over the Revolutionary Guards and Basiji militia.

For him, the death last weekend of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri was a relief, as it was for many of the conservative clerics who long feared the man's influence over the reformist opposition in Iran.

Montazeri's passing -- far from being an eternal torch for future reformers -- is a tragedy for those who wanted to create a more humane, civil society in the country. Yet not even on this death would Mesbah-Yazdi speak.

The two biggest men left in Montazeri's shadow -- Mir Hossein Mousavi and ex-president Mohammad Khatami -- are now in greater danger than ever.

The brutal suppression on the streets of Tehran over the weekend only emphasized the determination of the conservatives to crush their opponents.  If these two men were detained -- and Mr. Mousavi's nephew was shot dead on Sunday -- then the final lethal struggle for the Republic's soul would be dramatic indeed.

And if Ali Khamenei fails in his duty as Supreme Leader then who might step into the shoes of the Leader himself?  Many in Iran suspect that this is the very position to which Mesbah-Yazdi aspires.

True, he only controls a small ultra-conservative faction in the local assembly.  But Iranian politics do not run on the supposedly Western principle of majority rule.

Back in June, Mesbah-Yazdi told Revolutionary Guards that they need not be worried by the political "earthquakes" that had occurred since the election.  "Know that God created this world as a test," he said.  "The Supreme Leader holds a great many of the blessings God has given us, and at a time of such uncertainties our eyes must turn to him."

That is how Mesbah-Yazdi would like to run Iran.  To understand Qom, think Tudor England.