Sun, Feb 13, 2011 | The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Rift between Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Iran’s Regime Deepens
With the elections for the Assembly of Experts leadership coming up next month, in recent weeks government supporters in the conservative camp have stepped up their criticism of Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of both the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Discernment Council. There have been more and more calls to impeach him from the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts and replace him with top conservative cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi-Kani, the secretary of the conservative Combatant Clergy Association.
A commentary article published this week by the conservative website Mahramaneh News says that the chairman of the Assembly of Experts has to be a person who is not involved in political and partisan battles, and works for unity while putting the good of the regime over personal interests. Rafsanjani’s conduct following the presidential elections indicates that he is not such a person. The website claimed that, following the elections, Rafsanjani preferred his family’s interests to the interests of the regime, did not defend the Supreme Leader, and did not take action to achieve unity among the various forces of the regime. His declarations and actions even serve the interests of foreign media to slam the Iranian regime. His activity this past year shows, according to the website, that he has been ineffective as leader of the Assembly of Experts, and should therefore step down for Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani (Mahramaneh News, February 7).
In this context, the conservative Fars News Agency has accused people in Rafsanjani’s inner circle of attempting to slander Mahdavi-Kani to prevent him from submitting his candidacy for chairman of the Assembly of Experts. The news agency claimed that more than 50 of the 86 assembly members support Mahdavi-Kani’s appointment for chairman (Fars, February 4).
Rafsanjani’s absence from last Friday’s prayer in Tehran, which was led instead by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was also cause for strong criticism against him. The conservative website Raja News claimed that Rafsanjani’s absence proved once again that he is interested in isolating himself from the regime. By his actions, Rafsanjani has proven that he would rather pursue the interests of the leaders of “incitement” (a term used to refer to the reformist opposition) than take the side of the Supreme Leader. The website estimated that Rafsanjani’s insistence on sticking to the mistakes he had made this past year would lead to his impeachment from the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts (Raja News, February 6).
Meanwhile, Rafsanjani has issued a memorandum of opinion addressing the latest developments in Tunisia and Egypt. In the memorandum, Rafsanjani expressed support for the popular uprisings in both countries, stating that they were the result of the policies adopted by Egyptian and Tunisian leaders, who refused to heed the voice of the people. No tyrant can stand against a popular movement, even with the support of foreign powers, Rafsanjani argued.
The chairman of the Assembly of Experts expressed his confidence that the popular uprising would not remain limited to Egypt and Tunisia, and that it would expand to many other countries in the world where oppression still prevails. In a possible insinuated reference to the situation in Iran, Rafsanjani stressed that it was the duty of the political and social elites across the globe not to wait until it’s too late, to exercise wisdom, and to comply with the people’s desire for democracy (Aftab, February 7).