February 21, 2007

RAFFI ON A ROLL:

RAFSANJANI PRESSES POLITICAL OFFENSIVE AGAINST PRESIDENT, STRESSING MODERATION (Kamal Nazer Yasin, 2/21/07, Eurasia Net)

Possessing a popular mandate, and emboldened by the apparent support of a substantial number of senior clerics, Iran's political maverick, Aliakbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is pressing a campaign to diminish President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's influence over the country's policy-making apparatus. While the outcome is far from certain, Rafsanjani has already succeeded in recasting the terms of political discourse inside Iran, emphasizing a cautious, rather than radical approach to policy dilemmas, especially the one revolving around the country's controversial nuclear program. [...]

Over the last few weeks, Rafsanjani, a consummate pragmatist, has solidified his standing as the chief political alternative to the neo-conservative president. In the span of five days in early February, Rafsanjani gave two provocative television speeches and made a highly publicized visit to Qom, Iran's main spiritual center, unleashing a rhetorical offensive that threw the president off balance.

"This is the first time after the [presidential election] victory of the neo-conservatives over a year and a half ago that an individual from Iran's political class has articulated a coherent set of policy statements in direct opposition to the present government," noted a Tehran political scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The political scientist added that opposition to Ahmadinejad's policies had been rising, but, until now, presidential opponents lacked a figure around which they could rally. "Many people from elite circles are unhappy with the president's stand on a range of topics -- from Iran's nuclear program to his denial of the Holocaust to his economic policy. What [Rafsanjani] has done is to tap into this sense of unease and use it to rally all the disaffected factions under his own leadership."

In Qom, Rafsanjani met with many of the country's most powerful religious leaders and received rousing endorsements from a large number of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 21, 2007 6:42 PM
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