January 10, 2007


Prominent Conservatives Support Reform (Niusha Boghrati, January 9, 2007, Worldpress.org)

Ex-president (1989-1997) and current head of the powerful Expediency Discernment Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, could be singled out as the most iconic political figure to definitively take a step back from Ahmadinejad's policies.

Rafsanjani is considered as one of the most influential architects of the Islamic Republic's political system, and is a long-time ally of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

A conservative figure throughout his presidency, Rafsanjani's tough approach toward social and political freedom once spawned the reformist movement led by Mohammad Khatami.

Now, after almost a decade out of office, Rafsanjani -- who lost the 2005 presidential election to Ahmadinejad -- has repeatedly voiced his concerns over the government's "mishandling" of essential policies such as the nuclear case, as well as its "inappropriate" approach toward cultural and social issues. It is a political stance that favors the reformists' agenda, which ironically had once been initiated against his own policies as president.

After the recent approval of the sanction-imposing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 against Iran's nuclear program, and in the aftermath of the underestimation of the issue's importance by the Iranian government, Rafsanjani was the first key political figure to acknowledge the danger that the resolution posed to Iran.

Some other conservative figures exhibiting a more flexible approach are Tehran's mayor Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, lawmaker Emad Afroogh, and Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani -- Akbar's brother, and a mid-ranking politician in Tehran's core of power.

The tendency to adopt a semi-reformist approach in the conservative ranks has paralleled concerns among the minority reformist Khatami supporters. According to many observers, a coalition between the two traditional rivals against the hard-line government is probable.

Although the formation of such coalition would inevitably confine the reformist expectations to some extent, its stability will be guaranteed due to the three decades-long influence, and the traditional established role of the conservatives in major policies.

Apart from the shift of policy among many conservative figures, Ahmadinejad's hard-line approach has also resulted in a major comeback by the heretofore-silenced reformists to the political arena.

It's nonsense of course to say that Rafsanjani has taken a step back, since he ran against Ahmadinejad as a conservative reformer, and Ayatollah Khamenei's hand-picked candidate, in the first place. Indeed, had the Ayatollah had his way Rafsanfani would have defeated the genuine reformer, Moin, in the run-off, but he underestimated how much the reformers had been alienated and what that would do to turnout.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 10, 2007 4:25 PM

So Rafsanjani is a 'conservative figure' now?

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 11, 2007 12:24 AM

Rafsanjani is a conservative reformer. Khamenei and company realize the state needs reform better than anyone.

Posted by: oj at January 11, 2007 8:40 AM

Any nation that has a body politic named "The Expediency Discernment Council" needs more than just reform. That is positively Stalinesque.

Rafsanjani may not be a total loon, like Yazdi or Ahmadinejad, but he has said some of the same stuff (as has Khatami). Even if Rafsanjani wanted to back away from the insanity, he probably couldn't do it and stay alive. The boot has been in the face of the average Iranian since probably 1970 (much more so after 1979); a few tweaks here and there aren't going to change that.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 11, 2007 10:04 AM

Rafsanjani doesn't matter--he's just a tool of the senior Ayatollahs, who realize they need to reform. That's why Khamenei didn't care whether Moin or Rafsanjani won.

Posted by: oj at January 11, 2007 11:31 AM