samedi 12 mars 2011

Une interview intéressante...

Chers lecteurs, je me fais ici le relais d'une interview réalisée par Arash Aramesh pour le compte de "Inside Iran" et portant sur l'éviction récente de H. Rafsandjani à la tête de l'Assemblée des experts. Malheureusement pour certains, l'interview est en anglais et je m'excuse de ne pas avoir eu le temps de la traduire. Bonne lecture à tous. 

The following interview was conducted with a political operative in Iran with close ties to Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. He spoke by telephone from Tehran with Arash Aramesh of InsideIRAN about the recent developments in the Assembly of Experts and Rafsanjani’s political future. 
Q: Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani was replaced by Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi-Kani March 8. Is this the end of Rafsanjani’s political power in the Islamic Republic? 

A: What happened in the Assembly of Experts was not an isolated event. After the death of Ayatollah Meshkini almost two years ago, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who was the vice-chair, became the Chairman of the Assembly. There has been a split at the Assembly between two clerical factions: the radicals led by Mesbah-Yazdi and the traditionalists, who are closer to Grand Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli in their views on Islamic jurisprudence and the concept of 
Velayat Faqih.

Two years ago, when Rafsanjani ran for the Chairman of the Assembly, the radical faction nominated Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi [Iran’s Chief Justice from 1989-1999]. At the time, Rafsanjani asked conservative clerics with similar political views to run as he was not very interested in occupying another position. Therefore, Rafsanjani asked Ayatollahs Mahdavi-Kani and Vaez-Tabasi to run two years ago. Rafsanjani even told Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that he was not interested in running for the post, but Khamenei told him that it was his duty to run. Rafsanjani has always insisted that he did not want the post even then.

Let’s fast forward a little bit. During the presidential election of 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad employed a strategy of confronting Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad always said that he was not really competing with Mir Hossein Moussavi or Mehdi Karroubi and his main political rival was the Rafsanjani dynasty. Ahmadinejad’s attacks against Rafsanjani prompted Rafsanjani to write that famous letter to Khamenei in which Rafsanjani warned that Ahmadinejad’s behavior was going to damage the Islamic Republic. This made it very clear that Rafsanjani was now in a direct personal fight with Ahmadinejad.

These personal attacks against Rafsanjani continued. Hardliners have tried to put his family under pressure. His son was asked to come back and stand trial and his daughter was insulted. Hardliners also asked Rafsanjani to denounce what they refer to as the “sedition.” They wanted Rafsanjani to condemn Moussavi, Karroubi, and Mohammad Khatami. But this is so unlike Rafsanjani’s political culture—he has never publically condemned or attacked people. He has always spoken very softly. Now, don’t get me wrong. Rafsanjani is very frank and clear in our private meetings. He speaks his mind and is aware of what is happening in the county.

About three weeks ago, a number of clerics in the Assembly with close ties to radical Mesbah-Yazdi started gathering signatures from members of the Assembly asking for their approval to deny Rafsanjani another term. These clerics included Ayatollahs Ahmad Jannati, Mohammad Yazdi, and (Abbas) Kaabi. According to what I know, they managed to get fifty signatures –a significant number in an 86-member assembly. Now, keep in mind that Rafsanjani has been one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic. He has always said that he is very close with the Leader. But there is a systematic effort by hardliners to totally eliminate him. Rafsanjani is slowly becoming isolated.
Q: Slowly isolated? It seems that he has been on the losing side of every confrontation. 

A: That is true, but he is not gone yet. He is still the Chairman of the Expediency Council and has enormous economic influence. Also, Rafsanjani has managed to create a new political support base for himself. Some protesters in Iran have appreciated Rafsanjani’s positions in the past two years. But I must mention that many opposition activists and protesters do not like Rafsanjani’s conservative manners. For example, they don’t like how Rafsanjani handles crises in a very moderate and non-confrontational manner. Some protesters even think that Rafsanjani is dealing behind the scenes to solidify his own position. Well, that is his style!
Q: But protesters and opposition figures complain that Rafsanjani has not done enough, even behind the scenes, to help them. Has Rafsanjani really lost all his political influence or is he just trying to make some deals behind closed doors? 

A: No one really knows how much Rafsanjani has done for those in Iranian prisons right now. So many opposition figures who now receive a few days off from prison owe this to Rafsanjani’s political negotiations behind the scenes. He has helped prisoners a lot. But he doesn’t publicly take credit for this because he is trying to maintain his behind-the-scenes bargaining power. So it is not fair to say that Rafsanjani is silent. Anyone who knows Rafsanjani knows that he has been anything but silent, but he has his own style. And Rafsanjani has been much more successful than Grand Ayatollahs in securing concessions for political prisoners.
Q: If he has such bargaining abilities, then why was he unable to save his own position in the Assembly of Experts? The Supreme Leader must have approved Rafsanjani’s replacement and, despite your argument, it seems that Khamenei is trying to strip Rafsanjani of his remaining power. 
A: The Leader’s views on issues like this are very important. But I disagree that Khamenei tried to remove Rafsanjani. According to Rafsanjani, he met with the Leader prior to the Assembly’s election. In previous elections, the Leader always lent his support to Rafsanjani’s candidacy. But this time, the Leader said he had no horses in the race.
Q: So the Leader ordered Rafsanjani not to run. 

A: Khamenei might be okay with a weak Rafsanjani but he does not want to see him eliminated.

What Rafsanjani did was that he convinced Mahdavi-Kani to run. This man [Mahdavi-Kani] is a very conservative but a moderate cleric. Rafsanjani and Mahdavi-Kani have been political allies for many years. This [Mahdavi-Kani’s nomination and subsequent victory] was a team effort led by Rafsanjani. Mahdavi-Kani has always been viewed as someone who could mediate between different factions in the Islamic Republic. Rafsanjani’s political astuteness led him to convince Mahdavi-Kani to run and deny a hardliner such as Jannati, Yazdi, or Mesbah-Yazdi the highest position in the Assembly. He maneuvered in a way so that the hardliners in the Assembly will be left without a clear victory.

Conservatives in Iran have no interest in seeing the end of Rafsanjani. Conservatives are not happy with the hardliners surrounding Ahmadinejad.
Q: What is Rafsanjani’s strategy now? Is he going to publically support the opposition? Or is he going to move closer to the Leader? 

A: Rafsanjani said a while ago that he wanted to retire. But he noted that his retirement from politics may be interpreted as a defeat. He always told us that he liked to travel and see various parts of Iran without having to worry about his political responsibilities. I don’t think Rafsanjani can ever quit politics. And even at a time when his influence might have been reduced, he is surrounded by a network of powerful political and financial heavyweights.

Parliamentary elections are coming up in about a year and Rafsanjani will be very much involved. This will be the next political battle for Rafsanjani.

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