The following Q&A is between INN contributor MikVerbrugge (Mehrzad Vafa) and an insider source with which he is in communication. Following this Q&A is a brief analysis by an analyst that has been providing Iran News Now with insightful information ever since the rigged June 12 elections (preferring to remain anonymous).

Insider Opinion: Back to square one.

Conversation with an insider, September 20th 2009

What is your opinion on what happened at today’s sermon?

At today’s sermon there was Rafsanjani, Nateq-Nouri, S. Larijani, H. Khomeini & Dori Najafabadi on one side, Ahmadinejad, A. Khatami, Janati flanked by Shahroudi on the other side. Ejei was sitting next to Rafsanjani. Today’s show of force of Traditionalists was remarkable, and Coup’s side wasn’t impressive. Rafsanjani got his way. All confessions about him & his family & friends are now void & illegal, which clears the way to go for the throats of a few coup leaders. At the same time, it also voided all evidence against Mousavi, Khatami, Karroubi with regards to velvet revolution allegations. But it also renders Karroubi’s accusations void. It looks like the Leader knows his days are numbered & is back to negotiating and compromises.

(see MikeVerbrugge’s previous twitblogs/tumblr blogs for details on earlier negotiations)

But isn’t it too late?

I’m not sure who would want that. There’s going to be a lot of talks in the next few days. In light of Banisadr’s very frank message regarding Sazegara, who he deals with and what position he is seeking, all non-coup factions have to really think hard. Rafsanjani’s way might be more in the interest of the nation however, all [in the coalition] will need to reassess and wait to get details of the new shift, before they can decide whether they go with it, and they probably won’t give in without getting their issues embedded in a deal & get some concessions. So far it looks like it would mean Rafsanjani & Nateq-Nouri keeping on doing what they do to undermine & limit Ahmadinejad, while Mousavi is allowed to slowly & orderly move his opposition, tamed & totally loyal to the regime, and make it viable for next Majlis election. Back to Square One…

My question is: What does Khamenei have to offer to the Marjas, after pushing them around for months and the Fitr disaster showing they are all against him?

Brief Analysis by Iran News Now Analyst

This is an interesting bit of information and analysis by MikVerbrugge’s source. Although I am not aware of Banisadr’s message to Sazegara, there are definitely various pressure points in the regime now that are close to breaking point. It is not suprising that the traditionalists or principalists close to Rafsanjani feel like they may have the upper hand now. However, Rafsanjani’s power is limited because he does not appear to be willing to move on deposing Khamenei. Without a move to depose of Khamenei as leader he will not be able to unseat Ahmadinejad or sufficiently weaken his influence in the government to prevent the Hojjatieh from solidifying their hold on the government. Of course a move by Rafsanjani to depose of Khamenei means that one of the pillars of the regime, the concept of Supreme Leader, will most likely be irrevocably damaged. I don’t think Rafsanjani wants this because it would mean the entire system would probably collapse, bringing him down with it.

So if indeed a deal is in the works, it would need to account for the one factor that nobody in the regime appears able to control, not even the reformists. That element is obviously the realization by a large segment of the population (if not the vast majority) that the time to change this regime is now. If you recall, the 18th of Tir uprising was not organized by the leaders of the reform movement. It was loosely organized by the social network that has formed around them that calls itself the green movement. While the leaders of the reformists have significant influence on this movement, they do not command it as far as I can assess. This social network has shown that it can disseminate information quickly. It has shown that it is capable of defying the orders of the regime and acting like a huge thorn in its side. The regime’s entire foundation is based on various lies that they have been able to force down the throats of those that are not considered “Khodi” (outsiders of the inner circle of power) through the instruments of terror and violence at their disposal. This has been the case ever since so-called students stormed the American embassy in the beginning of the revolution, in 1979. There has always been this implicit threat that if you stand against this government in any way, you will be tortured, raped or killed. This is not new. The people of Iran know this. What IS new is the fact that they have successfully challenged this regime for three months now. This one fact is now engrained in people’s hearts and knowledge. And this knowledge is now the foundation of the green movement. Why is this important? Because the movement is a social movement, the basic ideals that it espouses are, for the most part, agreed to by every individual in the movement. This means that the leaders are not as important because there will be constant renewal of leaders should the current ones be arrested, killed, or disappear, or even change their minds in anyway. Again, remember 18th of Tir and you’ll understand what I’m getting at.

In short, it is great that Khamenei feels vulnerable and is willing to wheel and deal. In my opinion, it is most likely too late for him in the long run. It is also good that Rafsanjani is (possibly) back in a more influential role. All of the above is good for Iran, because it means that the regime has no choice but to make concessions, both internally within the “Khodi” and to the outsiders. The coup makers are sweating now, but don’t count them out. They still wield lethal force, and they are willing to use it.

In the current state, it looks to me like we have entered into a long period of attrition–a cold war of sorts–between the following forces: Khamenei and his inner circle, Rafsanjani and the traditionalists and principalists, The IRGC leadership, the coup makers, and finally (and importantly) the green movement. In the short term, the perturbations in the regime are chaotic and the tea leaves are somewhat hard to read, but the regime is in trouble. It may indeed be back to square one, for the moment, but that square is damaged badly. The forces that were unleashed in the past three months are still loose. I am going into pure conjecture now, but my feeling is that equilibrium is far from being established for this regime. Ahmadinejad’s appearance at the U.N. and how that goes for him will have further ramifications for his government and the Islamic Republic system. The regime can’t block information coming in or going out now, so a show of massive protests against him in New York will be very embarrassing for him, but even more so for Khamenei.

We are in uncharted territory now.