Saturday, December 18, 2004

Infoshop News - The making of Iran's president

Infoshop News - The making of Iran's president: "Rafsanjani destined to become president by Aleksei Komenski | December 17, 2004
An informed source close to the conservatives told the Mehr News Agency on Sunday that Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Assembly for Discerning the Interests of the State (the Expediency Council), is 70 percent certain to run for president at the upcoming presidential election. According to the source, a secret agreement would be achieved on Rafsanjani's candidacy, because from among other conservative candidates, the reformists favor Rafsanjani, and also in comparison with other reformist candidates, the conservatives would prefer Hashemi.

"The worse things go internationally and domestically for Iran over the next few months, the more that plays into Rafsanjani's hands," a senior political analyst told Reuters. "What he and his backers are saying is that he is the man for a crisis." Just by announcing his candidacy "the problems surrounding Iran's nuclear case and the foreign threats it faces, especially from America, will be lessened," said Mohammad Reza Turani, an official at the Assembly of Experts, a top decision-making body. For the senior political analyst, "the key to Rafsanjani's campaign is the nuclear case. If the nuclear issue is going badly, and pressure from the West is high, that favors him."

Iran's nuclear policy is determined by a small group of power brokers headed by Rafsanjani and Hassan Rowhani, who is known as one of the most important strategists in the Islamic Republic. Rowhani has emerged as Iran's chief negotiator on nuclear issues, and not without a cause. He is the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, the director of the Centre for Strategic Studies, a member of the Expediency Council and a member of the Assembly of Experts that drafted the Constitution of the Islamic Republic and elected Khamenei to succeed Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of Iran. If Rafsanjani will not run for president, Rowhani will be the best choice for the power elite. However, Rowhani has not announced his candidacy, and never will. At least not this time around.

But it is interesting to note that other leaders of the elite group, Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to the Supreme Leader and a former foreign minister, and Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of the Expediency Council, are playing along. I mean, have recently claimed that they are going to run for president. "People need candidates who are efficient as well as politically serious," Rezai, who headed the Revolutionary Guards for some 16 years, told a news conference on Tuesday. "I believe it is my duty to enter the electoral competition and the voters can evaluate each candidate's capabilities," Velayati, who is also a member of the powerful Expediency Council, was quoted as saying the same day by the Iranian Students News Agency.

Ahmed Tavakoli, a member of the neo-conservative faction, said at the ongoing electoral gathering on presidential election organized by the conservatives that intense campaign against economic corruption should be the top priority of the next government. He stressed that the public confidence to the government has been reduced and if this trend continues the opportunities will be lost and the threats will become serious. In november, Tavakoli told the Shargh daily that he will be a candidate only if Rafsanjani runs for office. He ran against Rafsanjani, who served two terms as president from 1989 to 1997, in 1993 and beat him in the populous northwestern province of Kurdistan. Tavakoli has been a harsh critic of Rafsanjani's economic policy dating back to the 1980s.

According to the current law, the presidential candidates must be over the age of 30. Two conservative groups had prepared a draft to introduce an upper age limit of 70 years, a move that would have blocked a possible comeback by Rafsanjani who will celebrate his 71st birthday next year. But the plan to pave the way for the neo-conservative hopeful didn't work out. Reza Talai-Nik, who was collecting signatures to propose the bill, told AFP on Wednesday that "to avoid any partisan exploitation and prejudice against potential candidates, we have decided to suppress the age condition for candidates to the presidential election."

An official close to Rafsanjani told the Financial Times that the former president is weighing up the situation. "He feels a hard-line faction is gaining too much power," the official claimed. "He's worried about the socialism in their economics and their desire for confrontation internationally. They could do just as much damage to Iran as our enemies." The Times even cited reports that Rafsanjani's fears of "character assassination" are delaying his decision to stand. The former president, under who's rule a secret committee met regularly to decide which of the regime's internal enemies should be liquidated, fears assassination.

The press of the "free world" seems to back Rafsanjani, who is notorious for his corrupt, treacherous and repugnant character. Surprised? Let's recall what Asharq Al-Awsat had to say in July, 2003. The pan-Arab daily reported that individuals acting as envoys of Khamenei and Rafsanjani met in London with an unofficial White House envoy named Kurt Wilden, an anonymous American close to then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and an anonymous senior US intelligence officer. The Iranian envoys tried to convey the impression that only Rafsanjani can secure acceptance of Washington's demands, and this would be done in exchange for US backing of Rafsanjani's bid for the 2005 presidential election.

Back to present, former science minister Mustafa Moin, who was said to have agreed to run for president, said on December 5 in Shiraz that he has not made a decision about participating in the presidential election. Moin added in his speech that people should not expect a repetition of the 1997 elections, when reformist candidate Mohammad Khatami won a surprise landslide victory. The candidates must first be approved by the Guardian Council before being put to public vote, and there is a chance that possible reformist candidates won't win the approval. Some conservative representatives have asked for the Guardian Council's rejection of Moin. Former Majlis speaker Mehdi Karubi, another possible reformist candidate, has yet to make up his mind.

The Council for Coordinating Forces of the Islamic Revolution, which has drawn together most conservative parties and movements, has set up a committee to come up with the final candidate of the conservative camp. Today, the informed source told the Mehr News Agency that conservatives have reached a consensus over the candidacy of Ali Larijani, the Supreme Leader's representative to the Supreme National Security Council and a former president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. The members of the committee will introduce their chosen candidate to the conservatives congress today. "Certainly, Ali Larijani will be the final candidate of the conservatives," the source said. Larijani is, of course, a member of the Expediency Council.

What's next? With the unpopular Larijani becoming the conservative candidate, the inner circle has won. Reformists are out of picture, neo-conservative Tavakoli effectively suppressed and the so-called pragmatic conservative, billionaire thief Rafsanjani will win the presidential election as an "independent" (with the covert backing of the US) hostile to the rapid pace of social reform that Khatami had been pushing for, but a leading force behind economic liberalisation. The man who is known for speeches condemning "the Great Satan" has been a part of the Great Satan mafia for a long-long time.