Friday, July 17, 2009

Rafsanjani to deliver sermon in Tehran

As many will have already heard, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will speak at Tehran University's Friday prayer service in a few hours. Rafsanjani is the chairman of both the Assembly of Experts (putatively empowered with the ability to replace the Supreme Leader) and the influential Expediency Council. He's one of the wealthiest and most well-connected politicians in Iran, and is a staunch supporter of the velayat-e faqih, or Guardianship of the Jurists -- the technical term for the Islamic Republic's theoretical "rule by (religious) judges." Most interestingly, he has only ever been considered a "moderate" or "reformist" in the context of the most recent presidential election, when he sided with Ahmadinejad's leading challenger, Mir Hussein Mousavi.

Today's sermon, Rafsanjani's first appearance at the prayer service in over two months, will be very closely watched. Neither conservatives nor reformists know exactly what to expect from Rafsanjani, who has long been a supporter of the clerical regime but recently emerged as a vocal critic of Ahmadinejad and his backers. Whether he chooses to be conciliatory or to further inflame the passions of pro-Mousavi elements will go a long way towards determining whether or not the matter of last month's elections is closed. Interior Ministry officials are already making noises that some interpret as encouragement to Basij militias to crack down with violence in the case of anti-government disturbances.

In related news, Ahmadinejad spoke in Mashhad yesterday and blamed the whole thing on the West. Shocker. Oh yeah, and when he's returned to the head of government, "with ten times more power and authority than before, [the government] will enter the global scene and will defeat the global arrogance." (That's a little code phrase he likes to use for America.) So be on the lookout for that.

Seriously though, Friday could be a big day in Iran, so keep your eyes open.


  1. YO,

    While you say that Rafsanjani can only be looked at as a "reformist" or "moderate" in the context of the recent election, I think this is somewhat misleading. While often called a "pragmatic conservative" Rafsanjani has never been a right-wing or lef-wing politician in Iran.
    I think beyond looking at Rafsanjani as a "prgamatist" looking at him as an opportunist may also be useful. For instance, in past presidential elections, Rafsanjani has tended to put various memebers of his camp (and the Kargozaran party) into positions of influence within different campaigns (principalists, reformists,etc.). Ol' man Raffy is always looking out for #1. However, this year he threw the whole lot of his group in with Mousavi. For once, he really has chosen a side, and it still remains to be seen how far he is willing to go with this.

    Rafsanjani was the man behind Khamenei's ascendency because he viewed him as a weak cleric whom he could mold in his own image. Now he is the only one with the weight to really challenge his support for Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani is more of a merchant than a cleric, and as the Iranian economy worsens we will likely hear more and more from the Chairman.

    I think the most interesting events are yet to come.

  2. Sorry for all the typos.


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