Hashemi Rafsanjani Retreating?

February 28, 2011

s government supporters mount their criticism of veteran politician Hashemi Rafsanjani, particularly since the street protests of earlier this month when calls have been made for his dismissal as the head of the Experts Assembly on Leadership, an 86-man cleric association entrusted with the duty of overseeing the work of the country’s supreme leader, Rafsanjani changed his tune two days ago and spoke against the February 14 demonstrations that had been called by Green Movement leaders and took place in support of the uprisings in the Middle East, despite the government ban, while reiterating that he was a candidate in the upcoming Experts of Assembly. Speaking at the opening session of the Assembly of Experts, he said that the supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei had told him that it was his “duty” to participate in the elections of the Assembly.

In his opening remarks, Rafsanjani said that the February 14 demonstrations were “a clear example” of those who were against the essence of the revolution, the Islamic republic, the constitution and the principle of Velayat-e Faghih” (i.e., rule of clerics). In his talk, Rafsanjani emphatically said, “Under the current conditions in the country there can be no other center for replacing Islam the constitution and Velayat Faghih.”

In another part of his talk he said, “Without the participation and support of the public, something that has been expressly outlined in Islamic writings and in the constitution, actions will not work.”

“This revolution does not belong to its first or second generation but must continue with future generations to accomplish its ultimate goals and remain the light for the future. We must keep people involved and not allow the rise of hardline or extremist views and groups,” he added.

It should be noted that the statement that was issued at the end of last plenary meeting of the Assembly in the presence of clerics Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, Sadegh Larijani, Ibrahim Reisi and Ahmad Khatami which was chaired by Rafsanjani, condemned the February 14th demonstrated that had been planned by the Green Movement, calling it “counter-revolutionary sabotage.” After the demonstrations, Rafsanjani had said that “all sections of society must respect the law and anything that is contrary to the law is detrimental to the country and in the words of ayatollah Khomeni is haram” (i.e., religiously banned, sacrilegious).

In talking about the upcoming Assembly elections for its leadership, Rafsanjani said, “Unfortunately some sick individuals and circles raise issues about the Experts that convey the message that I am thirsty to remain the head of the body. History and current personalities of the regime attest that I have never been after such positions.” Then listing the positions that he has held in the Islamic republic till today, Rafsanjani said that these had either been requested of him by ayatollah Khomeini or by people and the leaders, which would remain so and that he would be a mere revolutionary soldier.

On the question of the next Assembly leader, Rafsanjani said that during the last plenary meeting he had personally suggested Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani to become the next chairman and preferred not to run himself. He added, “The leader has tasked me to run in the Assembly elections, as some ignorant or perhaps knowledgeable individuals create scandals as if I have an attraction to such posts.”

Rafsanjani reiterated that he would run in the upcoming elections for the leadership of the Assembly because, this would be responding to “calls for duty to commitment, religious duty, duty to the revolution, to the people and the regime.”

Responses to Rafsanjani

Immediately after Rafsanjani’s remarks at the Assembly session, Fars news agency – affiliated to the security-military apparatus of the Islamic republic – published interviews it had with Rafsanjani’s known opponents in the Assembly. Talking about the future Assembly elections, one such opponent Abdolnabi Namazi said, “The idea that the leader has tasked Mr. Rafsanjani to run for the chairmanship of the Assembly is a media ploy because the leaders does not approve or reject any person in this regard.” “Ayatollahs Mahdavi Kani, Mesbah Yazdi, Mohammad Yazdi and Janati are the four possible candidates for the leadership of the Assembly,” he predicted.

Mohammad-Hassan Mamdoohi, another Assembly member also rejected Rafsanjani’s remarks and said that while Rafsanjani may be a candidate to the chairmanship of the Assembly but the leader normally did not take such positions.  He too made remarks to support the candidacy of Kani adding that he enjoyed a good standing among the members.

Another Assembly member Ali-Akbar Garebaghi who is a known adversary of Rafsanjani called the incumbent’s remarks “lies.” He is also known to be close to another conservative cleric Mesbah Yazdi and added that Rafsanjani would have strong competitors if he ran, concluding, “representatives of people will choose the future chairman of the Assembly of Experts.”

Verbal attacks on Rafsanjani have been mounting and in a more recent case ayatollah Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) called him the “axis of the seditionists”, a term Iranian officials use for the protests against the announced results of the disputed 2009 presidential elections that have kept the incumbent in office.  Also, an advisor to the IRGC, Saffar Herandi (a former minister of culture) also spoke publicly of “gradually removing Rafsanjani from his positions.” “Mr. Rafsanjani will be relieved of his two duties and in the upcoming elections for the leadership of the Assembly of Experts we shall witness his dismissal, which is what his aides fear and want to prevent.”

Mohammad-Reza Bahonar, a hardline pro-administration Majlis deputy also had some harsh words and threats on this issue. “Mr. Rafsanjani was not with the people on the issue of the sedition and has less than a week to declare his position regarding the sedition,” he retorted.


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