Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rafsanjani Under Seige

Two days ago, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani lost one of his two major positions in Iran's government:
"The political marginalization of one of Iran’s most prominent politicians, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, took a turn for the worse on March 8, when he was forced to cede his seat as head of the Assembly of Experts, one of the government’s most powerful bodies, to rival Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, a traditionalist cleric.

"Responsibility for Rafsanjani’s turn for the worse lies squarely with the Supreme Leader. While his rivalry with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certainly must have played a role in stepping down, Rafsanjani has weathered similar attacks before without being defeated. However, Rafsanjani’s loss of the chair of the Assembly of Experts could only have come about if sanctioned by Supreme Leader Khamenei. Ahmadinejad has supporters in the Assembly of Experts, but the man slated to replace Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, is by no means in the Ahmadinejad camp and gained widespread support because he is seen as a moderate. Mahdavi Kani’s nephew is married to the Supreme Leader’s daughter.

"While at present it is impossible to determine with certainty, events in the Assembly of Experts and statements by officials with direct ties to the Supreme Leader indicate that Khamenei may finally have tired of Rafsanjani’s support for Iran’s opposition; he has both expressed his support for the Green movement and also condemned the regime’s actions since 2009. Rafsanjani’s only remaining position, which is as head of the Expediency Council, expires in 2012, leaving him little time to regain his strength before the next opportunity to marginalize him emerges."

According to Iran's constitution, the Assembly of Experts chooses and supervises the Supreme Leader, and Rafsanjani reportedly tried to activate the latter power during the crisis following the 2009 presidential elections, to no avail. I agree with the above analysis that this was orchestrated by Ayatollah Khamene'i. Furthermore, while in 2009 I speculated that Khamene'i was simply riding a wave created by Ahmadinejad and his backing in the IRGC, this is probably the final nail in the coffin in that idea. The two may not always get along, but they have a common interest in augmenting the power of the government bodies they control against the demands of civil society and what's left of an independent mercantile class.



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