Sun, March 06, 2011 | The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Iran: Ayatollah Rafsanjani Faces a Vote on His Future
Rafsanjani faces a vote on his future: Assembly of Experts to decide next week whether to remove him from office.
With the approach of the internal elections for the Assembly of Experts leadership, slated for the assembly’s meeting on March 8-9, this week has seen an escalation of political power struggles between supporters of Assembly of Experts chairman Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his opponents from the radical-conservative camp.
Media affiliated with conservative right-wingers and government supporters strongly denied the claims made by Rafsanjani’s supporters, according to which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei allegedly supports Rafsanjani’s candidacy for another term as chairman of the assembly. According to Fars News Agency reports, several Assembly of Experts members claimed that the reports saying that the Supreme Leader had instructed Rafsanjani to present his candidacy are a complete lie.
Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Abdolnabi Namazi told Fars that the reports according to which the Supreme Leader supports Rafsanjani’s candidacy are unfounded, and that Khamenei neither confirmed nor ruled out anyone’s nomination in the coming elections for the assembly leadership. Namazi stressed that the Supreme Leader does not usually involve himself with the assembly affairs. He mentioned senior clerics Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani, Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, Mohammad Yazdi, and Ahmad Jannati as possible candidates for chairman of the Assembly of Experts (Fars, February 26). All four candidates belong to the radical right wing faction of the conservative bloc. Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Akbar Qarabaghi also claimed in an interview granted to Fars that the reports according to which Khamenei instructed Rafsanjani to present his candidacy are false. He noted that Rafsanjani can expect to contend with a serious opponent in the coming internal elections (Fars, February 26).
Fars News Agency has recently accused some of Rafsanjani’s close associates of attempts to defame Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the conservative Combatant Clergy Association, to prevent him from declaring his candidacy for chairman of the Assembly of Experts. The news agency reported this week that Mahdavi Kani agreed to run for the post next week after over 50 assembly members had approached him with a request to do so (Fars, February 28).
In recent days, the ultra-conservative website Raja News accused Rafsanjani’s supporters of exerting pressure to allow him to retain his role as chairman of the assembly. The website criticized Majles member Ali Motahari, considered one of President Ahmadinejad’s critics in the conservative camp, who recently said in a press interview that no one could remove Rafsanjani from his post. The website argued that the political pressure exerted by Rafsanjani’s men runs contrary to the Supreme Leader’s instruction to avoid putting such pressure on Assembly of Experts members and leave it exclusively to them to decide on the next chairman. According to the website, the activity of Rafsanjani’s supporters is a result of their assessment that most assembly members will likely object to his retaining the post (Raja News, February 24).
In addition, Raja News reported that, during one of his recent visits to the religious establishment center in the city of Qom, the Supreme Leader met with ultra-conservative cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi and had an extended conversation with him at the latter’s residence. During the conversation, held in the presence of Mesbah-Yazdi’s family, the Supreme Leader reportedly praised the senior cleric and his personal and religious skills (Raja News, February 24). Mesbah-Yazdi is one of the key personalities of the radical right wing in the conservative camp and is considered one of Rafsanjani’s fiercest political and ideological opponents in the Assembly of Experts.
Meanwhile, those media affiliated with the pragmatic conservative bloc and Rafsanjani’s supporters stepped up their criticism of the alleged “wave of incitement” against Rafsanjani launched by his opponents in recent weeks. The daily Mardom Salari claimed that the elections for the Assembly of Experts leadership are being used by Rafsanjani’s extremist enemies to land a crushing blow against his image and personality. The daily reported that, in response to the efforts to slam Rafsanjani, several political activists came to his defense. For example, Majles member Qodratollah Alikhani claimed that, in light of Rafsanjani’s status as a veteran, experienced cleric and politician, no one could remove him from office (Mardom Salari, February 28).
This week, Rafsanjani himself addressed for the first time the reports on the coming internal elections for chairman of the Assembly of Experts. Speaking at a meeting of the Expediency Discernment Council, of which he is chairman as well, Rafsanjani said that he had never sought any office or position for himself. He said that it has been the Supreme Leader’s choice or the people’s will by which he has been assigned to the many positions he held since the Islamic revolution, and that he will continue being a soldier in service of the revolution. He even claimed that, in the previous elections for chairman of the Assembly of Experts, he offered the role of chairman to Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, who refused, and that he decided to take part in the elections on the Supreme Leader’s orders, not because he had an interest in the role of chairman. Rafsanjani noted that he will remain true to his mission in the coming elections, and that the only thing that matters to him — regardless of the election results — is the will of the people and of God (ILNA, February 26).
In response to Rafsanjani’s remarks, the government daily Iran published a commentary article saying that if his claim about always doing the Supreme Leader’s bidding is correct, he should have implemented Khamenei’s call to top regime officials and take a clear stand against the riots that broke out in Iran last year (Iran, February 27).