During his August 3 speech formally endorsing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned protesters that "by imitation of Ayatollah Khomeini, they cannot deceive people." Khamenei was mocking the opposition's claim to be reviving "the values of Ayatollah Khomeini"--the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Khamenei's predecessor as Supreme Leader. Ironically, Khamenei made this statement while seated below a large, framed picture of Khomeini.
This scene provides a stark illustration of the fact that politics in Iran are largely defined by attempts to claim Khomeini's legacy. Staying faithful to his ideology has been the litmus test for all political activity in the Islamic Republic. Reformists fight for women's rights, democracy, and civil-military divide--often under the auspices of Khomeini's pronouncements and writings. And despite the fact that the position of Supreme Leader is supposed to translate into ultimate power in Iran, Khamenei has been severely limited by the traditions and doctrines of his predecessor.
The opposition is thus going straight to the source in their search for legitimacy, accusing Khamenei of disrespecting Khomeini's legacy and claiming Khomeini's mantle for itself. The claim is not baseless: Khomeini had actually supported opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi against Khamenei on several occasions prior to his death. In 1985, when then-President Khamene... >>>
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