FACTIONAL POLITICS IN IRAN….I don’t have any idea whether this reporting is accurate, but what the heck. Here’s what the London Times says about the Iranian hostage crisis:
According to an Iranian military source, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards has called for them to be freed.
Major-General Yahya Rahim Safavi is said to have told the country’s Supreme National Security Council on Friday that the situation was “getting out of control” and urged its members to consider the immediate release of the prisoners to defuse tension in the Gulf.
However, Safavi’s intervention was reportedly denounced by another senior general at a meeting of high-ranking commanders yesterday.
Yadollah Javani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ political bureau, was said to have accused him of weakness and “liberal tendencies”. Javani is said to have demanded that the prisoners be put on trial.
….Iranian military sources said the Supreme National Security Council had concluded on Friday evening that Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, should order the release of the British naval personnel on Safavi’s advice.
However, according to one account, which could not be confirmed, Javani described Safavi’s recommendation as tantamount to treason.
This more or less fits with Juan Cole’s suggestion that the crisis is basically a product of internal Iranian politics: “Tehran’s hard-liners…are trying to use the incident to rally the public around the flag and revive their flagging fortunes on the geopolitical stage with appeals to Iranian patriotism.” However, it goes a bit further in suggesting that even the Revolutionary Guards are badly split on what to do next.
As usual, I’m just passing this stuff along. Iranian factional machinations are far too opaque for me to have an independent opinion on this stuff, but the basic idea that internecine battles of some kind are behind the whole affair seems increasingly plausible.