Iran Hopes

A Weblog on Iranian Affairs (Formerly Iran Votes 2005)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Rafsanjani drinks the poison hemlock

As anticipated, Rafsanjani has indicated that he will stand in presidential elections. He is reported as saying that he had to "swallow the bitter pill" of contesting elections "for the sake of country".

This grudging tone of Rafsanjani reminds me of that of Khomeini in his historical letter to the nation in 1988, announcing that Iran had accepted the terms of the UN resolution 598 to end the Iran - Iraq war. To describe how difficult it was for him to succumb to pressures to end the war, Khomeini depicted his decision as "drinking a cup of poison". And it was indeed a strong one. Khomeini died in less than a year after accepting the resolution. Immediately after Khomeini's death, Rafsanjani went on with the rest of his plot (see post:will the ghosts go unleashed) by convincing, with minimal effort, Iran's senior clerics assembly (in charge of appointing a new leader) that the only choice for the post was Ali Khamenei. There are different accounts as to why Rafsanjani did not - or perhaps could not - propose himself as a successor to Khomeini. In any event, Rafsanjani's calculation was that Khamenei would never make a threat to his power. His assumption was based on the fact that during his eight years of presidency, Khamenei had hardly become an influential figure in Iranian politics. Besides, Khamenei was hardly supported by clerics in Qom. Moreover, Rafsanjani was confident that the army (Sepah and Artesh) would be loyal to him, relying on the fact that he had been the acting chief-commander during the eight-year war with Iraq, so he would know how to handle the army.

However, Rafsanjani's calculations did not prove to be right. Soon, Khamenei started to consolidate his position as a the 'number one man' of the country. He took control over Sepah (Pasdaran), the Judiciary, the IRIB (radio and tv)as well as vital hardliner foundations (e.g,Bonyad Shahid, Panzdah Khordad, Bonyad Janbazan). Khamenei also found ways to silence opposing voices in Qom, trying to assert himself as a Mujtahed and Grand Ayatollah. The only branch of government in which Khamenei was left with least influence was the Executive. Neither Rafsanjani, nor Khatami were the obedient type of president he wanted. Particularly during Khatami's tenure, lots of trouble were caused to him and his position. During student protests in 1999, slogans were chanted overtly attacking the supreme leader. A blow to his power came in 1998 when MPs close to Khatami formed the majority in Majlis. They would take every opportunity to attack the Supreme Leaders' attempts to exert absolute power over people. Clearly, this was not something that the Leader could tolerate for long, no more than one Majlis session. Thus, when the time arrived for the 7th Majlis elections, he directly intervened by ordering the Guardian Council to disqualify all candidates who had close ties with Khatami. In this way, Khamenei re-conquered the parliament.

He had plans for the executive too. Soon after taking control over the Majlis, he encouraged Ali Larijani, one of his most obedient servants , to run for elections this year. But this move would disappoint some of his closest frinds , like Velayati, who had for long served the supreme leader, hoping to get rewarded by the second most important job in the country. So, to avoid causing such disappointments, Khamenei made another move: setting up a 'council' which would, apparently, elect the 'most suitable' candidate from among a handful of hardliner candidates. So he ordrered that the CCR be established and run by those loyal to him (see below). However, things did not go according to his plan. Much sooner than he had expected, it became evident that the whole council and its plans were no more than a mere 'show'. The outcome was clear from the beginning: Ali Larijani was the favourite. So, all others, i.e. Velayati, Ghalibaf, Rezaee, and Ahmadi Nejad one by one announced that they would no longer go the CCR's meeting although they respect its final decision (that is, Khamenei's decision). Velayati was the most disappointed of all and sent a clear signal to Rafsanjani that he was shifting to his camp (see my previous post) as a result of Khamenei's failing to back him up.

Now the CCR has officially announced Larijani as its candidate for the election. This gives Rafsanjani all the reasons to believe that Khamenei has a well knitted plan for taking full control over the country. He knows that Khamenei has assumed so much power that he has no hesitation as to encroach upon Rafsanjani's territory anytime he wishes to do so. In effect, during the past few years, many of Rafsanjani's closest allies have been jailed or otherwise removed from office by acts of those bodies under Khamenei's direct order -Karbasschi (former Tehran's mayor) and Nouri (former interior minister) being the most prominent ones among them. Above all, Rafsanjani is also well aware that Khamenei and his followers are lying in wait to get rid of him too. All they need is a good excuse, a 'legitimate' reason to end his life (political or?). Voices are already being heard from Khamenei's camp which overtly accuse Rafsanjani as not respecting the principles of being a 'true revolutionist' (see previous post). On the other hand, Rafsanjani knows that if he becomes president, he has to somehow enter into a deal with the US. If he does so, for instance by entering into negotiations with Americans, he will give the fanatics the best excuse to punish him severely for dealing with the "great Satan". What price will he then have to pay? The same price as Khomeini paid by drinking the cup of poison 17 years ago?

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