Assassinating Ahmadinejad Won't Bring Reform to Iran

Even if opposition forces succeed in deposing or executing the Iranian president, it is unlikely the regime will change.

The urgent telephone call that was supposed to have been received Wednesday at the office of Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi was never made. "No one tried to assassinate the president of Iran," said the official announcement after initial reports of an attempted assassination. And just like that, the clause in the Islamic Republic's constitution granting authority to the vice president for at least 50 days was not implemented.

Bodyguards of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad react after an incident near his motorcade - August 4, 2010
AP / Saman Aghvami

Iran's constitution clearly defines the course of action in case the country's president dies or is unable to do his job. While the vice president immediately replaces the president, a special committee is also appointed, who job is to prepare the country for new elections. At the same time, as on "regular days," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has final say on all matters related to affairs of the state.

That being the case, it is doubtful that if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually ceased being Iran's leader that opposition figures such as Mir Hossein Mousavi or Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani would have inherited his seat. It is safe to assume that Khamenei would have ensured that someone from Iran's Revolutionary Guards or a conservative member of Iran's legislature would run in the election and win - much as the Supreme Leader took care to have Ahmadinejad win in 2005 and be re-elected last year.

Ahmadinejad has many political rivals, but the "usual suspects'" are mainly heads of separatist groups who have already committed acts of terror against the regime. In 2005, for example, there was an assassination attempt on Ahmadinejad that was carried out by underground opposition elements from the province of Sistan and Baluchestan in southeast Iran. This province, which has suffered neglect for many years, is also home to a Sunni organization known as Jundallah, an Iranian resistance movement that apparently gets assistance from bordering Pakistan. The group, whose leader Abdolmalek Rigi was executed by hanging in June, carried out a terror attack in Zahedan that killed 27 people, some believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guard.

Jundallah is better trained and equipped than other similar organizations in Iran, but it is not alone. In a country overflowing with ethnic minorities who, combined, make up 50 percent of Iran's population, there are other elements that have a vested interest in plotting and executing an attack against the regime – including the Kurds in northwestern Iran who are demanding additional rights and have recently created a separatist group, which is considered a terrorist organization.

The People's Mujahedin of Iran, a religious leftist organization that seeks to overthrow the regime and in the past has helped U.S. operations against Iran (until it was declared a terrorist group), has also proven its ability to act against the regime. The Arabs of Khuzestan province in western Iran have proven the same: Many of them are Sunni Muslims that in some cases are also suspected of rebel activities.

Either way, if these groups or opposition forces outside of Iran succeed in deposing or executing Ahmadinejad, the system will remain the same and Iranian policy is not expected to change.