Thursday, May 19, 2005

Rafsanjani has a very active lobby in the United States (Iran Press Service - The MKO web site))

By Safa Haeri
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005

E-mail this page Printer-friendly page

PARIS-TEHRAN 12 May. (IPS) As Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani announced his participation at the coming presidential elections, pessimism over the future of the country grew, with, in the one hand, two prominent grand ayatollahs expressed their doubts and on the other, more political figures inside and outside called for an outright boycott of the race.

“The decision by Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani to run for presidency means that he and Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i have reached some sort of agreement”, speculated a well informed source.

“One must not forget that the two men, though old friends, have opposed each other after the death of Khomeini in 1989, when Khameneh’i became leader and Rafsanjani president”, the source added.

The decision by Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani to run for presidency means that he and Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i have reached some sort of agreement.
The announcement of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Chairman of the Expediency Council to run for the presidency gave some colours to an otherwise dull and unpopular election.

In a statement published on Tuesday, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that he took his decision after days and weeks of consultation with friends and considering the domestic and international conditions and threats the country faces, he decided to run in order to find solutions to all these ills and menaces.

At about the same time, Grand Ayatollah Hoseynali Montazeri, the senior cleric once regarded as the successor of the Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution said “things are not going in the right direction".

An outspoken critic of the ruling conservatives and above all, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, the 86 years-old Mr. Montazeri, who was placed under house arrest for years added: "At the beginning of the revolution the late Imam (Ayatollah Khomeini) and I gave promises of liberty, and these promises have not been lived up to", he told the French news agency Agence France Press, in a rare interview at his home in Qom, Iran's clerical capital just south of Tehran.

"I have no opinion regarding the elections. I have stopped giving my opinion, because every time I have given my point of view the reverse seems to happen", he observed.

Grand Ayatollah Yusef Sane’i, another prominent pro-reform cleric, also had reserved harsh words for regime hardliners.

"We cannot foresee the future. We do not know if we can trust the candidates to deliver on their promises and to what extent the rights of the people will be preserved and how much choice they will have", he told the AFP.

The news about the participation of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani came as the controversy grew between Tehran in the one side, Berlin, London and Paris on the other, after some Iranian officials revealed the regime’s intentions to resume uranium enriching activities.

The response from European Union’s so-called “Big 3” that is engaged with Iran since 2003, trying to persuade the Iranian ayatollahs from building nuclear weapons and also Washington to the news was blunt and none compromising, warning that in the case the enriching activities are resumed, Iran’s nuclear case would be immediately transferred to the United Nations Security Council.

However, Iran reiterated that it was not afraid of the sanctions and repeated again that while it was not after atomic arms, it considers its “natural and legitimate right to advanced nuclear technologies for civilian uses”.

Based on the assumption that Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani has a very active lobby in the United States, diplomatic sources and analysts told Iran Press Service that Mr. Khameneh’i might have agreed to let the former president to solve the nuclear dilemma.

This is exactly some western diplomats hope, expecting Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, considered as a skilled, experienced and shroud statesman, would be able to discourage Iran’s hard liners from taking the country to a possible war with the United States.

I have no opinion regarding the elections. I have stopped giving my opinion, because every time I have given my point of view the reverse seems to happen.
However, one should not forget that Tehran voters dealt a terrible humiliating blow to Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani’s prestige when they refused to give him enough vote to enter the Majles, or the Iranian parliament in Legislative elections of 2001.

Nevertheless, many Iranians, tired of the regime and uncertain of the future, could prefer Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime’s virtual number two man to other running candidates, most of them having no experience in senior positions and no charisma.

In an open letter published on the eve of the new Iranian year that started on 21 March 2005, Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam, a former deputy prime minister and Iran’s longest political prisoner called on the Iranians to boycott the coming elections, due for 17 of June, and turn the event into a referendum on the future of Iranian political system.

His call received a wide support from the majority of Iranian dissidents, including students, scholars, political activists and intellectuals both inside and outside the country, all united over the proposal for referendum.

One of the reasons the public is turning its back to the elections is that the conservatives have made it clear that they would grab the presidency at any cost.

In the February 2004 Legislative elections, the Guardians disqualified thousands of candidates, most of them reformists.

This can be done easily under the present Iranian electoral system where no candidate can run if not accepted by the 12-members Council of the Guardians.

"There should not be guardianship. In an election guardians are not needed, it is contrary to human liberty", Mr. Sane’i, who is in his late 70s, told the French news agency, also interviewed in the city of Qom, considered as the “cradle” of militant Shi’ism.

So far, the conservative cam has presented some 14 candidates and the reformists a few ones. Registration for candidates started on Tuesday 10 May.

The running of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, though opposed by some hard line groups that have filled their own candidates, would certainly lead several would be runners to get out of the race.

Hard line candidates were not that happy, with many of them stating their decision to stay and oppose the former president, known as a pragmatic cleric more open to the private sector.

But the announcement pleased to reformists, hoping that the scenario of May 1997 would be repeated and the public again, punishing the regime, would vote for a reformist candidate. ENDS IRAN ELECTIONS 12505"