Iran after Rafsanjani

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By Amir Basiri

Dying at the age of 82 from a heart attack on Sunday, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had a long record of guiding the regime’s lethal measures domestically and abroad, including suicide bombings and eliminating exiled dissidents. Such an image is far from the “moderate” that Western media found in him.

Rafsanjani was known for his central role in Iranian politics. From the 1979 revolution forward, he placed himself amongst the inner circle of regime founder and first supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini. He served as the regime’s parliamentary speaker in the 1980s, while in parallel acted as Khomeini’s envoy to supervise operations in the Iran-Iraq War.

As Khomeini died and the war wound down, Rafsanjani assumed the mantle of presidency in 1989 and played a significant part in Ali Khamenei’s rise as Khomeini’s successor. Rafsanjani continued his political life by chairing the Assembly of Experts — in charge of appointing the supreme leader and acting as an oversight body over his role — and move on to the Expediency Council before his death, both advising Khamenei and finalizing conflicts between the ultra-conservative Guardian Council and the parliament.

Following eight years of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, in 2005 Rafsanjani made an effort to reclaim this position. This campaign ended in humiliation as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed the presidency. For the next eight years Rafsanjani publicly criticized and denounced Ahmadinejad’s policies and actions, distancing himself from the hardliners and further attempting to portray himself as a “reformist” favoring warm relations with the West.

Despite serious differences and rivalry over power and influence, Khamenei fully comprehended his need for Rafsanjani as a stabilizing factor and could never fully eliminate him. Rafsanjani’s death is now evaluated as the loss of a significant pillar for the entire regime, as explained by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Rajavi declared in a statement on Sunday defining Rafsanjani’s death as the downfall of “one of the two pillars and key to the equilibrium of the religious fascism ruling Iran.”

“Rafsanjani, who had always been the regime’s number two, acted as its balancing factor and played a decisive role in its preservation. Now, the regime will lose its internal and external equilibrium,” she added, also predicting the “approaching overthrow” of the mullahs’ regime.

For 38 years Rafsanjani “played a critical role in suppression at home and export of terrorism abroad, as well as in the quest to acquire nuclear weapons,” Rajavi underscored.

In 2006 Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman filed suit against Rafsanjani for his role in one of the deadliest Iran-supported terrorist attacks abroad — the 1994 suicide truck bombing targeting the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The massive blast leveled entire buildings and resulted in the death of 85 people with hundreds more wounded. The investigators specifically issued arrest warrants for Rafsanjani and seven other senior Iranian regime figures.

Rafsanjani also ordered numerous assassinations of dissidents in exile, including former Iranian ambassador the United Nations and prominent human rights activist Dr. Kazem Rajavi. Iranian assassins murdered him in 1990 near his Geneva home. Swiss investigators raised charges against Tehran and authorities issued an arrest warrant for Rafsanjani’s spy chief Ali Fallahian.

The March 1993 assassination of 42-year-old NCRI Rome envoy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi in the Italian capital and the February 1996 murder of the NCRI’s refugee envoy Zahra Rajabi in Istanbul were also ordered by Rafsanjani.

He also had a particular enmity against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the central entity in the NCRI umbrella group.

“Four rulings are a must for [MEK members]: 1– Be killed. 2 — Be hanged. 3 — Arms and legs be amputated. 4 — Be separated from society,” Rafsanjani is quoted in saying back in 1981. As Khomeini’s right hand, he also presided over the summer 1988 massacre, sending over 30,000 political prisoners to the gallows throughout Iran.

Rafsanjani has been a balancing factor through the course of the past four decades. The regime in its entirety has suffered a major defeat and will significantly decline down the road.

Khamenei’s focus will be to prevent this development from sparking into an uncontrollable turn of events for the entire establishment. Considering this regime’s past approach, there is a high probably of Tehran’s mullahs resorting to enhancing their effort to spread violence, exporting extremism and terrorism, and promoting Islamic fundamentalism across the region and beyond.

Amir Basiri is a human rights activist and analyst. He tweets at @amir_bas

Originally published in American Thinker

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The Future Of Iran Following Rafsanjani’s Death

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Former Iran’s president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaks during Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran on Friday May, 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

Originally published in Forbes

By Heshmat Alavi

The regime in Iran suffered a major setback after former president and figurehead Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was 82.

Following the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani played an influential role in structuring the regime’s policies, and his death will leave a significant power vacuum, coming less than four months prior to significant presidential elections.

Known for his persuasive role in shaping the regime’s politics following the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani will leave a power vacuum in his wake.

During the past four decades Rafsanjani preserved a top role in the regime’s domestic crackdown, exporting Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and extremism, and spearheading Iran’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons through an underground program.

“The death of Rafsanjani, one of the pillars of the religious fascism ruling Iran and its balance factor collapsed, and the regime in its entirety is closer now to its overthrow,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Following the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, serving as Parliament Speaker and deputy commander of armed forces, Rafsanjani reached the presidency in 1989 and held this post until 1997. After two years of the so-called “reformist” Mohammad Khatami as president, Rafsanjani attempted to run for the office once again in 2005, only to succumb to hothead Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Recently Rafsanjani gained a reputation for his aggressive challenge against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, while playing the role model for Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s so-called “moderate” president.

Of course, Rafsanjani was definitely considered part and parcel to the religious establishment in Iran, bearing in mind his special ties to regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who died back in 1989. However, appeasement advocates in the West dubbed him as a “pragmatic conservative” willing to work with the outside world, especially the “Great Satan.”

While Rafsanjani’s power diminished noticeably in recent years, he continued to enjoy a final post as chief of the Expediency Council, assigned to seemingly resolve disputes between the Guardian Council and parliament. The former is an ultra-conservative body closely knitted to Khamenei and known to screen all electoral candidates according to their loyalty to the regime establishment.

Rafsanjani sought last to take part in the 2013 presidential elections as a “reformist,” only to be disqualified by the Guardian Council. Angered at being purged, Rafsanjani lashed back by criticizing the measure as ill-informed.

Parallel to his rivalry with the Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani went on to place his weight behind Rouhani in 2013 when the latter assumed authority as president.

Alongside his political campaign, in the past decades Rafsanjani also used his post to slice his entire family an economic fortune from the country’s organs and natural resources.

“One brother headed the country’s largest copper mine; another took control of the state-owned TV network; a brother-in-law became governor of Kerman province, while a cousin runs an outfit that dominates Iran’s $400 million pistachio export business; a nephew and one of Rafsanjani’s sons took key positions in the Ministry of Oil; another son heads the Tehran Metro construction project (an estimated $700 million spent so far),” states a 2003 Forbes analysis.

The report also mentions billions stashed by the Rafsanjanis in overseas bank accounts.

“Some of the family’s wealth is out there for all to see. Rafsanjani’s youngest son, Yaser, owns a 30-acre horse farm in the super-fashionable Lavasan neighborhood of north Tehran, where land goes for over $4 million an acre. Just where did Yaser get his money? A Belgian-educated businessman, he runs a large export-import firm that includes baby food, bottled water and industrial machinery.”

Despite canvasing as a reasonable negotiator to the West, Rafsanjani was in fact shoulder to shoulder with his “hardline” partners in quelling dissident voices, specifically members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the leading opposition group gaining reputation after being the first to blow the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

“Four rulings are a must for the [PMOI]: 1. Be killed; 2. Be hanged; 3. Arms and legs be amputated; 4. Be separated from society,” Rafsanjani said back in 1981. He also played a dominant role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in jails across the country.

As president, Rafsanjani supervised a slate of dissident assassinations abroad, such as renowned human rights advocate Dr. Kazem Rajavi, former Iranian ambassador to Italy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi and Iranian Kurdish leader Abdulrahman Ghassemlou.

Continuing this string of terrorist attacks, Rafsanjani has also been indicted for his part in the 1994 Buenos Aires AMIA bombing that left 85 killed and hundreds more wounded.

Rafsanjani has, through the past four decades, acted as the regime’s No. 2 figure and a balancing component, always preserving the regime’s higher interests. His death will considerably weaken the entire regime and spark major disturbances throughout the regime’s ranks and files. If the past is any sign of the possible road ahead, the mullahs will most probably resort to additional violence and the export of extremism, terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism to avert this latest crisis from escalating beyond control.