Tehran Bureau suggests that this conflict is really about succession after Khamenei. It's a struggle between those who believe that the Supreme Leader is chosen by God—with the job of the AE is to figure out who that choice is—and that elections are irrelevant foolishness...
...and, well, everybody else.
The "no election" camp includes one fellow in the AE, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who believes that people are "sheep" and issued a fatwa saying that cheating was allowable in this election. He talks repeatedly about the "Islamic Government of Iran", instead of the "Islamic Republic of Iran". You know who else uses that term "Islamic Government"?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yep, he and his followers are all part of this group, too.
That's why Rafsanjani is such a big target. All the first-generation revolutionaries are:
From what I understand, it may well be Montazeri, not Rafsanjani, that is the natural successor to Khamenei. But aside from that, this seems a cogent analysis of the struggle. There is always a struggle between those of a religion who believe in democracy, and thsoe who believe that since God is omnipotent and omniscient, any leader of a religious government must be the right one.
The first goal is to purge first-generation revolutionary leaders (with the exception of Ayatollah Khamenei). The main target here is former president Rafsanjani, a powerful politician who heads two important Constitutional bodies, the Assembly of Experts (AE), and the Expediency Council that arbitrates the differences between the Majles (parliament) and the Guardian Council. Also included in this group are Mr. Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, a mid-ranking cleric, former Speaker of the Majles, and a strong critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad; Mr. Mahdi Karroubi, the second reformist candidate in the election and a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini; and Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main reformist candidate, and Iran’s Prime Minister in the 1980s.
Why do they want them out of the scene? For two reasons. One is that the coup leaders consider themselves — and rightly so — as the saviors of Iran. They are the ones who fought Iraq for eight years. Secondly, at least part of the IRGC high command wishes Iran to be in a perpetual revolutionary state, but believes that the first-generation of revolutionaries have sold out the ideals of the 1979 Revolution.
In his “victory” speech on Sunday, Mr. Ahmadinejad never once mentioned Ayatollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic, or even Ayatollah Khamenei, his main supporter. The significance of the intentional omissions should not be missed. Just as Joseph Stalin and Deng Xiaoping kept Vladimir Lenin’s and Mao Zedong’s pictures everywhere, they always acted in the opposite way of what they appeared to be advocating; Iran’s second-generation revolutionaries will keep Ayatollah Khomeini’s pictures everywhere, but will act against his teachings, including his most famous saying,
The scale [for people’s acceptance of a politician] is people’s vote.
The second goal of second-generation revolutionaries is moving the country closer to an “Islamic Government,” and further away from an “Islamic Republic.” This is done by making elections a meaningless process by resortign to any means available, including rigging and manipulation. This move has marginalized reformist and democratic groups in Iran.
The third goal is to start preparations for the eventual successor to Ayatollah Khamenei. He is known to be ill. By accusing Mr. Rafsanjani of corruption, the second-generation revolutionaries wish to eliminate him — the head of the Assembly of Experts appoints the Supreme Leader — as the natural successor of Ayatollah Khamenei, hence paving the way for Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi who is a member of the AE. Everything appeared to have been planned well in advance, but the coup leaders did not expect the people to stand up to them.
This is a pivotal moment in Iran’s history. If the reformists and the Iranian people cannot reverse the outcome of Iran’s rigged elections, Iran will enter a dark period of dictatorship, with no light at the end of the tunnel. The country will be controlled completely by the military/security forces, with an unelected Supreme Leader as its titular head, and no elections (or extremely meaningless ones). This would be a terrible development for the rest of the world as well.
This was always the danger in Iran. Now it appears to be coming to pass.
Edit: Khamenei apparently called the protests "vandalism." He either has no idea he's in trouble, or is desperately trying to discredit them using his authority.
He really shouldn't try. His authority won't survive the attempt.