There are increasing indications that Iran's so-called neo-cons are attacking the ultraconservative Paydari Party to end its dominance in the Raisi government.

As columnist Mehdi Beigoghli noted in a commentary in the reformist Etemad newspaper, November 8, the neo-cons led by Majles (parliament) Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf have been trying to convince others in Iran’s political circles that they are prepared to establish "new governance," and bring about "reforms in the system" based on "new plans."

These are the buzz words heralding change from within the system at a time when young men and women in the streets do not seem to be listening to anyone representing the regime.

Ghalibaf officially announced the move towards new governance earlier this week by saying, "I hope security will be completely restored in the country soon, so that legitimate and necessary changes would begin to establish a new governance in economic, social and political areas within the framework of the Islamic Republic."

This comes while according to Etemad, most observers in Iran believe a return to the situation before the murder of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman by ‘morality police’ in mid-September is impossible.

Nonetheless, neo-cons insist that once the country leaves behind the current wave of nationwide protests, everything will be ready for unseating the Paydari Party and changing all the cabinet ministers they believe Paydari strongman Saeed Jalili has imposed on the Raisi administration. At the same time, Paydari members in the parliament and in government keep calling for harsher measures against the protesters, possibly because they do not want the situation to calm down.

Saeed Jalili, a ultra-hardliner politician and behind-the -scenes leader of Paydari, with President Ebrahim Raisi in 2021

Another neo-con who spoke about reforms was Tourism Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami who believes Paydari's excessive pressure to limit freedoms, most notably from within the ‘morality police’ led to the current unrest. Meanwhile he pointed at systematic flaws in the political structure that need to be changed. He also argued that the neo-cons are ready for reforms once the protests calm down.

On the other hand, according to Etemad, Paydari members believe that any change in the previously declared policies will be taken by the public as a humiliating retreat by the hardliner government.

The conservative Resalat newspaper, which traditionally represented the political ideas of heavyweights in Tehran's Bazaar, has aligned itself with Ghalibaf. In its Tuesday's edition, the paper came out in support of the Speaker’s views about making government-controlled media more active rather than focusing on confrontations with foreign-based Persian media. It also attacked Paydari's leading member Morteza Agha Tehrani for calling for a total ban on social media.

Tuesday morning Ghalibaf attacked two leading Paydari members, Vice President and Planning and Budget Organization Chief Massoud Mirkazemi and Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi for failing to report to the parliament and explain their approach regarding the country's economic crisis. He called on them to report to the Majles immediately and they did. Mirkazemi on his part blamed the problems partly on the Majles. The whole show, however, revealed that Ghalibaf had the upper hand in the dynamics.

According to Etemad, the neo-cons may be using the situation of protests as an opportunity to attack the ultraconservatives at their weakest point by blaming them for most of the country's problems. At the same time, some observers say the divide between the two most powerful factions of Iran's conservative camp might be a division of roles with the aim of playing a good cop, bad cop game for the public.

While all this means that part of the Iranian government is prepared to introduce minor reforms in the system, protesters have shown during the past seven weeks that they are not prepared to settle for anything short of a regime change.

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