Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whither Rafsanjani?

What is former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani up to? Last week, many interpreted his call for Quds Day protests as a clever means of supporting the opposition. Rafsanjani did not, however, mention the Iranian election in his call. He has also been calling for national unity behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, and joined in the Eid al-Fitr prayers led by the Khamene'i. Finally, the Assembly of Experts, which he chairs, has declared its loyalty to Khamene'i.

What does all this mean? It's hard to say. Rafsanjani was never convincing as an idealistic reformist, and probably supported Mousavi only because Ahmadinejad was bad for the economy, and the principlist anti-corruption campaign personally threatening. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that he's completely given up the reformist cause, and may be working behind the scenes to knit the sides together, as he says. If this is the case, then the Quds Day protest may have been a signal that a significant part of the Iranian public remains disgruntled.

Rafsanjani is clearly, however, allying himself with Khamene'i in some fashion. The implications of this then depend in part on how much control Khamene'i has over the principlists surrounding Ahmadinejad. Is he a figurehead, or a partner? If the former, might he be considering ways to enhance his real power by a deal with some reformists? If the latter, are some considering throwing Ahmadinejad under the bus? I suspect he could be removed, and many of the powers to which he is linked could still retain their political and economic influence.

Rafsanjani's moves deserve close scrutiny.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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