February 27, 2007



Some experts suggest Rafsanjani achieved his primary goal during the February 8-9 visit to Qom -- lining up the support of a critical mass of the country's spiritual leadership. "Qom spread the red carpet and [Rafsanjani] was clearly basking [in the spotlight]," said the Tehran political scientist. "His hosts were competing with each other to shower him with praise."

In Qom, Rafsanjani held private meetings with grand ayatollahs spanning the spiritual spectrum -- from ultra-conservative to the reformists. Clearly absent from the list of Rafsanjani's interlocutors was the name of his theological nemesis, the controversial Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who is closely aligned with the presidential camp.

While Rafsanjani's talks with the grand ayatollahs occurred behind closed doors, newspaper reports made it clear that these influential clerics endorsed Rafsanjani's views. For example, reform-minded Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei was quoted as telling Rafsanjani, "Your fortitude, faith and courage are exemplary. ... Your popularity with the public and among most factional heads exerts extra pressure on you to navigate the country and the state through the turbulent waters ahead."

The reception offered Rafsanjani in early February in Qom was markedly different from that which he received during a visit he made last May, when he was jeered by young followers of Mesbah Yazdi and forced to cut short a speech. A change in attitude on the part of many grand ayatollahs in the way they perceive Ahmadinejad seems to have played a large role in enhancing Rafsanjani's status in Qom.

"Government-Seminary relations can be described as frosty at the moment," a well-respected religious scholar told EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity. "Some key figures in the Qom religious establishment have serious misgivings about the present government."

"Most knowledgeable clergymen are unhappy with the diminution of the [influence] of the clergy in society, and they believe this government is doing nothing to remedy [the situation]." According to the religious scholar, Qom's grand ayatollahs reportedly have declined to meet with the president in the last few months.

The post-Mahmoud planning has begun.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2007 8:30 PM

Ever heard the old Israeli joke about the difference between radical and moderate Palestinians? A radical Palestinian wants to drive the Jews into the sea. A moderate Palestinian also wants to drive the Jews into the sea, but only up to their waists.

Whenever I see any of the ruling Iranian clerics described as "moderate," I think of that joke. I've yet to see any convincing evidence that the joke doesn't fit here, too.

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 28, 2007 12:20 AM

"Government-Seminary relations..."

"The dimunition of the clergy in society..."

Pretty funny - as in, that little twerp who can't even dress right is dissing us way too much!

Methinks the mullahocracy is protesting just a bit too much. Ahmadinejad is just the kind of "politician" their system is designed to produce. Zealous, cultish, secretive, imperious, brutal, and demagogic. What more could they want?

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 28, 2007 12:30 AM

Either of the candidates the Ayatollah actually supported.

Posted by: oj at February 28, 2007 7:57 AM

If Yazdi and his minion are so eager to bring the end, the other mullahs better watch out. Surely the 12th imam set knows they won't ever get this chance again. And once Khomeini himself is denounced (a la the 1956 Party Congress), the "government-seminary" relationship is done.

Your rejoinder is funny - so 2005 was a protest vote after all!

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 28, 2007 10:09 AM

Absolutely. The Reformists protested by not voting. That's where Khamenei stumbled.

Posted by: oj at February 28, 2007 5:04 PM
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