February 7, 2017

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Why this Iranian conservative-turned-moderate will succeed Rafsanjani (Saheb Sadeghi, February 7, 2017, Al Monitor)

Larijani was appointed secretary of the Supreme National Security Council in 2005, but resigned in October 2007 after a dispute with then-President Ahmadinejad. Larijani was subsequently elected parliament speaker by the conservative camp in May 2008, and in turn, politically supported the latter.

In the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections, he, like Rafsanjani, kept his distance from the hard-liners. He asked police to be "kind to the people" and stressed people's right to vote and their freedom to express their opinions -- although he asked the protesters to draw a line between themselves and "the troublemakers." Under his leadership, parliament appointed a committee to probe the raids on Tehran University dorms in connection with the protests, sparking harsh criticism from conservatives. Indeed, the moderate position of Larijani drew such harsh criticism that he was called a silent seditionist, meaning that he did not share Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's position on the unrest.

In 2012, Larijani was re-elected to parliament and kept his speaker's post, while further distancing himself from Ahmadinejad and the hard-liners. Over time, he became a major critic of the Ahmadinejad government's policies and wrote critical letters about its "unlawful actions." In response, Ahmadinejad's supporters attacked Larijani as he was visiting the holy city of Qom in February 2012. Hard-liners threw shoes and rocks at him during a speech, which was particularly insulting since Qom is his home constituency.

Larijani's opposition to the hard-liners became even more evident with the arrival of Rouhani to power in 2013. With Rouhani as president, Larijani vastly improved the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. He more actively confronted the previous (2012-2016) conservative-dominated parliament, as evidenced by his fierce backing of the nuclear deal. Indeed, while the parliament's special commission for examining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action opposed it, it was Larijani who convinced a majority of legislators to approve the nuclear deal in 2015 -- much to the chagrin of the hard-liners.

In the February 2016 parliamentary elections, he declared himself an independent, largely in response to conservatives who no longer wanted him in their camp. Curiously, the Reformists seized on the latter by putting him on their ticket -- even though Larijani publicly announced that he had not requested it. After winning a seat, he became speaker once again -- notably with the support of Rouhani, and even though the head of the moderate-Reformist ticket, Mohammad Reza Aref, had sought the position.

In the past 10 years, Larijani has consistently tried to remain nonfactional and interact with all sections of the political spectrum. He has great influence within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC); the supreme leader trusts him; and he is popular among traditional clergymen. At the same time, he has maintained good relations with the Rouhani administration. Above all, he has transformed from a conservative to a moderate politician.

Posted by at February 7, 2017 6:58 PM

  

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