The fissures that have opened up at the center of the Islamic Republic are again much on display.
Influential Iranian politician Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s appearance today as Tehran’s Friday Prayer leader was even more profound and stunning than billed. As I’ve posted here before, when Rafsanjani speaks, people listen. And today, he had much to say.
Officially, the former President, Parliamentary Speaker, and close aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, now heads both the Expediency Council, a body that often reconciles log-jams within “the system,” and the Assembly of Experts, the body entrusted with appointing and even supervising the Supreme Leader.
Yes, he’s controversial. Many of the same reformists and leftists who today count the “pragmatic” Rafsanjani as an ally four years ago could not bear to support him against current President Ahmadinejad. Times change. In one of the debates just prior to the election, Ahmadinejad threw mud at Rafsanjani, hoping to taint reformist candidate Mir Hossein Musavi with the corruption smear by extension.
Since the controversy over the June 12th Presidential elections, Rafsanjani has been largely silent, and skipped a turn or two as Friday Prayer Leader. But not today.
As there are several very “thin” instant translations circulating, I post to the extension below a complete translation of Rafsanjani’s second sermon, as provided by BBC/OSC.
Last night, I’d heard from friends in Tehran who were worried that Rafsanjani “would pull a Khatami” — and talk about unity and preserving the revolution, while selling short the ongoing disquiet over the elections..
Quite the contrary, Rafsanjani’s speech was remarkably bold and unprecedented (for him). Rafsanjani has set out markers about legitimacy, “the people” and Islamic governance that will be of interest not just for Iran’s system, but for Islamists everywhere to consider.
“Everything depends on people…. The title of Islamic Republic is not just a formality…. If it looses its Islamic aspect, we will go astray. If it looses its republican aspect, it [The Islamic Republic] will not be realized. Based on the reasons that I have offered, without people and their vote there would be no Islamic system.”
Rafsanjani goes on to emphasize the plausible presence of “doubt” in the minds of Iranians about the legitimacy of the recent elections. This “bitter” doubt, “the worst disaster” — “a plague” – was not put there by foreign media, but by shameful behavior from within, by Iran’s own supervising Guardian Council and its state controlled TV media.:
“We are independent… Do we not have 30-year experience of running the country? Do we not have ulema? Why should our Sources [of Emulation, meaning senior clerics], who always have been supportive, and our seminary schools, which have never had any expectations for their efforts, be upset today.”
This is a not so subtle challenge to the very legitimacy of Supreme Leader Khamenei — in referencing the fact that several of Iran’s most senior Grand Ayatollah’s have been letting their displeasure be known. (a fact woefully missed or ignored in a recent WINEP essay)
Rafsanjani’s suggestions for restoring “trust” in the system (something hardliners don’t admit is lacking) boil down to:
1. Act strictly within the law. (e.g., especially law enforcement)
2. Promote dialogue and foster climate for free thinking and reason to prevail.
3. Free all those arrested amid protests.
4. Compensate those harmed in the disturbances.
5. Ease up on the media.
Rafsanjani does reference the need for unity, and he hopes his words will be “a turning point for the future,” to resolve the present “crisis.” That may be optimistic.
Ball now back to Leader Khamenei’s court.
(Full text in extension below:)