The Seven Plus Eight Committee/Principalist Unity Committee, an election committee that is supposed to coordinate the Principalist faction’s election strategy for the 2012 Islamic Consultative Assembly (or “Majlis” election), has begun to splinter apart even before its work can begin. As discussed here on 2 August 2011, it appears that tensions within the Principalists are at the heart of the split. 
Supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have formed a parallel election committee, the Persevering Front of the Islamic Revolution, that appears to have set conditions for their participation in the Seven Plus Eight Committee.
In the aftermath of the 2009 presidential election crisis, the Principalists, the right-wing of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (IRI) political establishment, was united in their opposition to the Green Movement demonstrations. Since the suppression of the Green Movement, differences within the Principalists that existed before the 2009 crisis are becoming visible again. Neo-Principalists, supporters of Ahmadinejad, are carrying out unprecedented political attacks against Traditional-Principalists such as Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf.
It appears that the Persevering Front has set conditions for its participation in the Seven Plus Eight Committee, namely that Larijani and Ghalibaf be removed, because it accuses them of supporting ex-President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. The Persevering Front has made removing Rafsanjani supporters, the Pragmatists, from the Majlis in the 2012 election its top priority.
The existence of conditions for participation was recently confirmed by a number of figures including Habibollah Burbur, spokesperson for the Loyalists of the Islamic Revolution (a Traditional Principalist political group) in an interview with ILNA in which he appeared to criticize the Persevering Front:
“Those who attempt to eliminate credible figures [Larijani and Ghalibafi] from the circle of Principalism should be doubted in their sympathy with the revolution and Principalism…”
In an interview with Fararu Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, another Traditional Principalist and member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee confirmed the degree to which this conflict has come into the open:
“Differences between moderate [Traditional] Principalists with the extremist faction [Neo-Principalist] is not one which can be hidden. I am convinced that the Persevering Front is making excuses in order not to join the unity current [Seven Plus Eight Committee]…The extremists fundamentally, and at their root, feel that they cannot work with moderate [Traditional-] Principalists.”
In another interview with Fararu, Ali Mothhari joined the chorus:
“The formation of the Perseverance Front is like the formation of the Zerar mosque during the foundation of Islam. In that period some worked under the pretense of a mosque to undermine Islam, and the Prophet [Mohammad] ordered the liquidation of that mosque. Today, by creating the Perseverance Front under the pretense of unity, they are creating divisions.”
“Previously in interviews I have said that if this action [formation of the Perseverance Front] means separation from Principalists, it is a welcome event because the extremists of this group, in their thoughts and actions, are not Principalists…”
Editor’s note: While there have been signs that there are fundamental differences between Ahmadinejad’s circle and Principalists for some time, this conflict is now increasingly being fought-out in public. Though Ahmadinejad’s Neo-Principalists and Traditional-Principalists have formally been under the same banner since 2003, even the façade of Principalist unity is now collapsing. When all is said and done, as with much else in Iranian politics, only one side is likely to be left standing.