Iran’s Challenges in Rouhani’s Second Term

The second term of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has officially begun. His first four years were experienced by the people of Iran, the region and the international community. It is necessary to discuss the challenges his second term will pose. The most important matter in Iranian politics is the issue of hegemony, authority and power. As long as the regime is formed around the supreme leader, known as the velayet-e faqih, the presidency and his executive branch will literally be functioning to his service and demands. In such a structure, the president in the Iranian regime, now Rouhani, literally enjoys no authority. Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami once described his role as a mere “procurer.”

Considering the fact that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has blessed the nucleardeal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Rouhani’s role is to provide for the establishment’s best interests while dodging and sidestepping international demands.

Khamenei understands very well there is no better option for his regime’s future. Yet he also needs to maintain a straight face before a social base that may even accuse him of giving in to the enemy, being the United States, the “Great Arrogance.”

Following the JCPOA signing Khamenei has to this day ordered the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) to launch 15 ballistic missile tests, all in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and all supervised by Rouhani as chair of the Supreme National Security Council.

Twelve such tests were carried out during Obama’s tenure, without any punishments imposed. The next three tests, however, saw the new Trump administration taking action each time by slapping new sanctions.

Iran’s measures have not been limited to ballistic missile launches.They include collaborating with North Korea on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests, instigating US Navy warships in the Persian Gulf, continuing involvement in Syria and supporting Bashar Assad’s killings of innocent civilians, providing the Lebanese Hezbollah underground missile factories, and arming, equipping and financing the Houthis in Yemen

The message received by the outside world is the JCPOA has emboldened Tehran, its destabilizing measures must be contained and sanctions increased.

The end of the Obama years and Donald Trump taking the helm at the White House, while believing the JCPOA is the worst deal in US history, has made circumstances even more difficult for Tehran. As defined above, obvious is the fact that Iran began violating the JCPOA spirit from the very beginning.

Considering that Tehran has failed to change any approaches in different fields, it is Rouhani’s mission, as the facilitator of Khamenei’s policies, is to portray Iran in compliance with the JCPOA.

Iran’s global correspondents have major demands and expectations from Iran. The Riyadh Summit in May, which the US and 55 other countries attended, ended with a statement placing certain conditions before Rouhani and the regime in its entirety:

  • Stop supporting terrorism in Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and rein in all terror cells;
  • End ongoing provocations in Gulf waters;
  • Order back all IRGC members, Shiite militias and proxy forces from the four Arab capitals of Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa;
  • Refrain from attacking embassies and diplomatic missions in Iran;
  • End plots to assassinate ambassadors in various cities;
  • Halt all ballistic missile test launches;

While these are all under the authority of Khamenei and IRGC, Rouhani has a record of supporting and facilitating such actions.

Therefore, there is no actual expectation that Rouhani will bring any change in his second term as this regime’s president. This was quite obvious from his humiliating inauguration ceremony. Which senior Western or Arab state official from a leading country took part in this event? None.

The most important official to take part was EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini, who merely attended as head of the JCPOA committee. Her entire visit became a complete embarrassment, being seen with a mandatory scarf and taking selfies with members of the parliament of a regime with a terrible human rights record.

European media and officials went as far as using the terms “shameful” and “disgraceful” for Mogherini supporting the president of a regime who has explicitly described this regime’s 38-year rule as riddled with executions and prisons.

During Rouhani’s first tenure the world witnessed this regime send more than 3,000 individuals to the gallows. Amnesty International has issued a comprehensive reportexpressing grave concerns over human rights violations in Iran.

And speaking of prisons, political prisoners across the country are enduring extremely harsh conditions. Dozens have been on hunger strike since July 30th after being transferred to a hall and placed under extreme surveillance. They are also deprived of minimal hygiene products, adequate clothing and even family visits.

The heavy shadow of increasing sanctions pose a very difficult economic hurdle for Rouhani and the clerical regime. The current circumstances have left Iran’s market, domestic and foreign investors in limbo, and literally locked the country’s economy.

Add to this situation Iran’s systematic economic corruption, smuggling and credit institutions associated to the IRGC, the regime’s security organs and Khamenei himself.

Further add the IRGC economic empire, and a conglomerate of foundations and organs supervised by Khamenei. This leaves no breathing room or hope for the average Iranian.

There is literally no solution for Rouhani as the regime’s president. He is running a politically, economically and socially-failed administration. And this failure is of fundamental importance.

Considering the absence of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one can reach an absolute conclusion that Iran’s so-called “moderate” and/or “reformist” current has come to a complete end.

This branch of the Iranian regime, which played a very important role in maintaining the entire clerical establishment in power, will no longer be able to function to its intended role.

The JCPOA has failed politically. This pact was hoped to open new relations between the West and Iran, and especially lead to significant and meaningful economic relations. Again, another failure.

The JCPOA only enjoyed any chance of success under the former Obama administration. This window of opportunity for Tehran has obviously been closed.

The fate of presidents in the clerical regime are quite obvious, and concerning for Rouhani. A look back provides a preview of a grim future awaiting Rouhani:

  1. Abolhassan Bani Sadr (1980) – sacked and removed from power
  2. Mohammad-Ali Rajai (1981) – killed
  3. Ali Khamenei (1981-89) – transitioned to the role of Supreme Leader
  4. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) – died a very suspicious death and diminished proile
  5. Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) – dubbed a “seditionist” and dismissed
  6. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) – described as “deviant” and sidelined
  7. Hassan Rouhani (2013-…) – To be determined

Despite all the efforts made by the Iranian regime and its lobbies with millions of dollars, there are very few figures left who truly have any hopes of change from within this regime, let alone by Rouhani.

The most important and gravest challenge before him, being part and parcel of the clerical establishment, is the threat of Iran’s powder keg society rendering nationwide protests and uprisings.

The average Iranian is completely opposed to the ruling regime, and those sitting on the throne in Tehran are no longer able to bandage the bleeding wounds of this corrupt system.

Iran is heading for regime change and such a platform is gaining international recognition as we speak.

Is Regime Change Truly The Correct Iran Policy?

Following the recertification of Iran’s compliance with a nuclear deal aimed at curbing its controversial nuclear program, there is quite a stir over the Trump administration possibly adopting a regime change policy in the face of Tehran’s belligerence.

There are those who favor such a trajectory, while Iran lobbyists and apologists have promptly argued otherwise, saying war should not be an option and citing ongoing campaigns in countries across the region to back their opinions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s strong position of supporting regime change in a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent shockwaves in Tehran and beyond.

“Our policy towards Iran is to push back on (its regional) hegemony, contain their ability to develop, obviously, nuclear weapons and to work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government,” he said.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, known for his “Iran, Iran, Iran” description of the source of Middle East dilemmas, followed suit.

“Until the Iranian people can get rid of this theocracy, these guys who think they can tell the people even which candidates they get a choice of. It’s going to be very, very difficult,” Mattis said in a special interview.

It is broadly assumed that the diplomatic pressure and sanctions initiative embarked upon by the White House and Congress are aimed at serving a regime change objective in Iran. The next necessary step would be to make this policy crystal clear to Tehran and all relevant parties.

Such strong statements made by Tillerson and Mattis dig deep into the Iran dossier and realize one stark, and very positive, difference between Iran and its neighbors. In contrast to others, the Iran regime change enterprise enjoys a long-term plan presented by a grass-rooted opposition movement, symbolized in the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Unfortunately, the campaigns launched in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even Syria, after former US president Barack Obama said the dictator Bashar Assad must go, all lacked this very necessary element, and the world remains witness in horror of the drastic consequences. Millions left killed and injured, scores more displaced, trillions of dollars literally wasted and entire cities and countries leveled. And the only benefactor has been the mullahs’ regime…, being an entirely different topic of discussion.

Tehran lobbyists stationed in Washington are heard saying Iran also lacks any such organized opposition capable of delivering anything different from what we have witnessed in other countries. For years they have been inaccurately mischaracterizing the NCRI as lacking adequate organization, support and resources.

To spare time, one needs only refer to this coalition’s recent July 1st convention in Paris, held annually, for a glimpse of its social base and international backing. Over 100,000 members of the Iranian Diaspora, joined by hundreds of international dignitaries from all walks of life representing a conglomerate of political trends, shows how the NCRI, and its President Maryam Rajavi, have garnered growing support both inside Iran and abroad to bring about regime change and establish freedom and democracy in their homeland.

Advocates of the appeasement approach vis-à-vis Iran will further continue quarreling over how the West must continue its effort of seeking internal Iranian elements of moderation.

Ever since the 1980s a slate of senior Iranian regime officials, including former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, former presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, and now Hassan Rouhani have been naively dubbed as “moderates” or “reformists.”

What deserves comprehension after 35 years of deception is the fact that Iran’s “moderate/reformist” pretext has long surpassed its expiration date. While the Iranian people are yearning for change, there is no such appetite, capacity or potential in Tehran’s ruling mullahs’ apparatus.

  • Mousavi supported the regime’s unnecessary continuation of the war against Iraq, devastating the lives of millions,
  • Rafsanjani supervised a domestic cleansing of dissident voices, and a string of assassinations and terrorist plots abroad,
  • Khatami presided over the 1999 student uprising crackdown and advanced Tehran’s clandestine nuclear weapons drive,
  • and Rouhani’s first term as president rendered the execution of over 3,000 individuals, and the trend continues as we speak with over 100 executions in July alone. Rouhani has also blessed a dangerous spike in ballistic missile advancements by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

As a result, any form of moderation or reform is nothing but a hoax misused by Tehran to continue misleading and deceiving the international community, while threatening the rise of hardliners if the likes of Rouhani are deserted.

Returning to the decidedly significant statements made by Tillerson and Mattis, it is high time such game-changing rhetoric receives deserved backing from President Donald Trump himself.

Iran must feel the heat from Washington’s policies, especially as Tehran prolongs its Middle East belligerence plaguing Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, and endures its harassing of the US Navy in Persian Gulf waters.

America must take the lead in facing Iran over its fundamentalist nature both inside the country and abroad. The Trump administration should begin architecting an international coalition to back the NCRI’s drive for regime change and peaceful democratization of Iran.

After four decades of utter atrocities, it is the Iranian people’s right to live in peace and prosperity.

What Does The Future Hold For Iran?

With developments regarding Iran and the Middle East on fast forward recently, voices are heard speaking of winds of change in Iran. Iran’s society, described as a powder keg due to social discontent, is literally simmering.

And after far too many years, the international community is gradually but surely realizing how appeasement will only yield further destruction. Catapulting events further is Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s failure to engineer the recent presidential election to unify his regime for the tsunamis ahead.

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi was the keynote speaker of a recent convention in Paris where she delivered a very different and new perspective on how to resolve the Iran dilemma.

We are also only a week away from July 14th, marking the second year of the Iran nuclear deal signing. Despite a windfall of over $100 billion dollars pouring into Iran, this agreement has failed to provide meaningful change in people’s lives.

And yet, Tehran has in fact allocated these funds to fuel turmoil across the Middle East, in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and beyond.

Returning to Iran’s milestone May 19th presidential “election”, Khamenei attempted to end his regime’s impasse by placing his weight behind conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi in that race.

Considering Raisi’s notorious role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, and a massive campaign launched by activists of the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) inside Iran, Khamenei’s candidate stood no chance.

However, the fact that the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani was able to secure a second term will not render any change in the regime’s status quo. In fact, quite the opposite.

In an attempt to fabricate the final vote tally, the mullahs’ regime boasted a 70+ percent voter participation. Merely a month later, however, Iran’s Assembly of Experts, an 88-cleric body tasked to select the next supreme leader and supposedly maintain him under their oversight, issued a statement declaring “people’s votes, demands and views” are of no significance whatsoever. This is the Iranian regime’s definition of democracy.

Thus, with a look at the past 38 years and the ever so changing status in and out of Iran today, there are three initial conclusions we can reach:

1) The rule of the mullahs’ dictatorship in Iran must come to an end.

2) Such an objective is now within reach more than ever before. Rifts inside Iran’s political hierarchy are inflicting deep, irrecoverable wounds.

3) In contrast to its neighbors, Iran enjoys a democratic alternative and an organized opposition movement fully capable of setting this regime aside.

For those continuing to advocate a policy of encouraging reform from within, this regime will not be reformed. Period. This has been proven through 20 years of three presidents claiming to be reformists/moderates. The slate includes Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami and the current Hassan Rouhani.

All the while, for three decades the West has gone the limits in testing the appeasement policy. Unfortunately, lessons have not been learned from Chamberlain’s disastrous agreement with Hitler.

And yet, despite the deafening propaganda orchestrated by the mullahs’ regime, this apparatus is threatened most not by a foreign foe, but the numerous protests and revolts witnessed each day through Iran. This is a ticking time bomb winding down fast.

The regime’s incompetence in resolving domestic and foreign dilemmas, and its failure to obtain nuclear weapons has left the ruling regime highly concerned over the road ahead.

Unfortunately, the countries going through the Arab Spring had no alternative apparatus to replace their ousted ruling governments. This is not the case with Iran.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, (NCRI), an umbrella coalition with the PMOI/MEK as its core member, enjoys vast influence inside Iran, seen in the following developments:

1) Back in 2009 the NCRI established the main uprising core across Iran, elevating the motto of “Where is my vote?” to a more demanding, “Down with the Dictator.”

2) For a year now the NCRI has directed a campaign focusing on seeking justice regarding the 1988 massacre. Iran, with its very young population, witnessed the regime succumbing to the people’s will of condemning Raisi for his role in the mullahs’ decades of executions.

From day one of their rule the mullahs have been at war with the entire Iranian population. All other wars, especially the devastating Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, the ongoing onslaught in Syria and Iran’s role in the killings, and the regime’s faceoff with the international community over its effort to build an atomic bomb, have been aimed at cloaking this ultimate war.

Thus, it is a mistaken conclusion to believe Iran resorting to such wars are signs of its strength. With no government stepping up to the plate to confront Tehran’s all-out belligerence.

It has only been the Iranian opposition, represented by the NCRI, leading the effort to expose the mullahs’ true nature. The NCRI hoisted the flag peace and freedom in response to the mullahs’ warmongering, been the sole supporter of the Syrian people from their first protests back in March 2011, and continuously blown the whistle on Iran’s notorious nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.

Four decades of appeasement in the face of Iran’s human rights violations, deadly meddling in the Middle East and beyond, terrorism and a concentrated nuclear/ballistic missile drive, have failed miserably. There is also no need for another devastating war in an already flashpoint region.

A solution is at hand, demanding strong and brave decisions by the United Nations, European Union, United States and regional countries.

a) Designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization;

b) Revoking Tehran’s membership from all international organizations, including mainly the UN and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation;

c) Setting international tribunals to hold Khamenei and other senior Iranian regime officials accountable for gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity;

d) Recognizing the Iranian people’s legitimate resistance to topple the mullahs’ rule.

This regime has taken advantage of a highly flawed appeasement policy for too long. The Iranian people and their organized resistance, pioneered by the NCRI, need not a single dime, rifle or bullet. Together they are more than able and absolutely capable to end the mullah’s rule.

“…the ultimate solution to the crisis in the region and confronting groups like ISIS, is the overthrow of the Iranian regime by the Iranian people and Resistance,” Mrs. Rajavi said.

Iran’s presidential election: Nothing new after 38 years

We were recently witness to the first debate of Iran’s 2017 presidential election, which can be evaluated from a variety of perspectives.  One simple conclusion is that all candidates failed to provide any hope for a better future.

Remembering how the 2009 debates paved the way for nationwide uprisings, rattling the regime’s entire establishment, this year’s debate was shortened in timing to prevent any uncontrollable sparks.  Despite all this, the arguments provided a vivid view into the regime’s critical domestic crises.

More important is the fact that, similar to all previous so-called “elections” in this regime, no candidate was able to provide a comprehensive political and economic agenda.  Twelve rounds of presidential elections, parliamentary polls, and votes for city councils have provided nothing but more of the same.

Why is it that nothing changes in Iran?  Why is it that with a new president in the U.S., all policies are completely refurbished, including immigration, health, education, and so forth?  The Trump administration’s foreign policy is being overhauled, to say the least.

Why is it that in smaller countries more similar to Iran – say, the Philippines, Chile, or Turkey – a new government brings with it changes across the spectrum in people’s lives, all linked to the state’s domestic and foreign policies?

Yet when it comes to Iran, we see nothing but a cycle of the same factions coming and going, while further plundering the country’s wealth and making the least difference in people’s lives.

The reason must be pursued in the very roots and nature of this regime.  This is a dictatorship ruled by the four percent, as described by presidential candidate and Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf in the recent debate.  A vast 96% majority of Iran’s population remains under the wrath of this cruel minority that relies on a completely fascist-minded set of laws resembling anything but a constitution.

And when elections are held, all candidates are vigorously vetted by the Guardian Council, a body of 12 conservative clerics, of whom six are appointed directly and the other six indirectly by the supreme leader himself.  And when a president is actually selected, he is nothing more than a puppet, acting according to the supreme leader’s will.  Based on the regime’s “constitution,” the president’s authority must be confirmed by the supreme leader no matter what the people have “voted.”

All this brings us to a certain set of conclusions:

Firstly – The president in Iran has no true power or authority, as the supreme leader enjoys the final say in all subjects, including national security and foreign affairs.

Secondly – No regime president has ever had any specific economic-social agenda.  Assuming any one of them had prepared such a blueprint, his agenda would need to be in complete compliance with the supreme leader’s demands.

Thus, one may ask the purpose of holding elections in such an establishment.

Mohammad-Tai Mesbah-Yazdi, an influential senior cleric in the mullahs’ ruling elite, provided probably the best response in an interview:

Elections have two purposes[.] … [T]he nation considers itself involved in establishing a religious state. As a result, they will further strive in supporting a state established with their backing, leading to the realization of important religious state goals.

The second purpose is … the importance of the people’s role and votes disarming opponents. They intended to depict this Islamic establishment as authoritarian. However, when the people’s votes are respected, opponents will lose all excuses[.]

This brings us back to our initial argument: as faces change in this regime, it is to no avail for the greater good of the people.

For example:

  • The so-called “reformist” Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s president from 1997 to 2005, doubled the number of executions in comparison to 1996 and quadrupled them in comparison to 1995!
  • The so-called “principalist” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was even worse, and the “moderate” Hassan Rouhani has stood above all with a record of 3,000 executions in four years.
  • Poverty and human rights violations have been on a continuous increase.  Iran has 16 intelligence services, and the numbers could go up, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.
  • The mullahs’ own laws define around 1,800 counts of crimes that people must not commit!  The slate includes what clothes to wear, what to eat, what to read, and what satellite TV they are permitted to watch.  It is worth noting that France has only 300 such criminal measures.
  • The country’s national currency has constantly nosedived.
  • Embezzlement cases have been on the rise year after year.
  • Meddling in the internal affairs of regional countries, including Iran’s involvement in Syria, has climaxed.  This has been parallel to Tehran continuing its nuclear program and ballistic missile drive.

Neither in domestic policy nor foreign strategy can we pinpoint any significant differences among Khamenei, Rafsanjani, Khatami, Ahmadinejad, and Rouhani.

To this end, don’t hold your breath or have any hope that the May 19 presidential “election” – read: “selection” – will render anything new from within the mullahs’ regime.

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

Will Rafsanjani’s death trigger Iran regime upheaval?

Iran Rafsanjani

By Heshmat Alavi

The Iranian regime was dealt a significant blow as former president and senior cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Sunday, January 8, at the age of 82.

Known for his influential role in shaping the regime’s politics following the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani will leave a power vacuum in his wake as he dies less than four months prior to crucial presidential elections.

During the past 38 years Rafsanjani maintained a top role in the regime’s measures of domestic crackdown, export of terrorism and extremism abroad, and pioneering Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear weapons through a clandestine 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 of the 1980s, during which he served as Parliament Speaker and deputy commander of armed forces, Rafsanjani became president from 1989 to 1997. After eight years of the so-called “reformist” Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, Rafsanjani tried to run for office again in 2005, but fell short to firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

More recently Rafsanjani has been known for his fierce rivalry with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and mentoring the so-called “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rowhani.

There is no doubt Rafsanjani was part and parcel to the religious establishment in Iran, especially considering his close ties to the regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, who died in 1989. However, the pro-appeasement camp in the West believed him to be a “pragmatic conservative” willing to mend fences with the outside world, especially the US.

The Expediency Council

While Rafsanjani’s power had waned considerably in recent years, his last post was head of the Expediency Council, a body assigned to apparently resolve conflicts between the regime’s parliament (Majlis) and the Guardian Council. The latter is an ultra-conservative entity with close links to Khamenei, known mainly for vetting all candidates based on their loyalty to the establishment before any so-called elections.

Rafsanjani again sought to participate in the 2013 elections as a “reformist” candidate, only to be disqualified by the Guardian Council. Angered at being spurned, Rafsanjani responded by denouncing the measure as ignorant.

In line with his jockeying with the regime’s Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani decided to place his weight behind Rowhani after the latter assumed power as president in 2013.

Parallel to his political endeavors, Rafsanjani also used his position to carve himself and his family an economic empire from the country’s institutions and natural resources in the past decades.

The family empire

“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 alludes to the billions cached in Swiss and Luxembourg bank accounts by the Rafsanjanis. Despite portraying himself as an adequate broker to the West, Rafsanjani was on par with his “hardline” counterparts in suppressing dissidents, namely members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main opposition group that first blew 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 presiding role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners.

During his tenure as president, Rafsanjani is said to have directed numerous assassinations of dissidents abroad, including renowned human rights advocated Dr. Kazem Rajavi, former Iranian ambassador to Italy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi and Iranian Kurdish leader Abdulrahman Ghassemlou.

Rafsanjani has also been indicted for his role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires that left 85 killed and hundreds wounded.

Rafsanjani has through four decades of mullahs’ rule in Iran played the role of the regime’s No. 2 figure and a balancing element, always securing the regime’s higher interests. His death will significantly weaken the mullahs’ regime in its entirety and will trigger major upheavals across the regime’s hierarchy.

If past is any indication, the mullahs will most likely resort to further violence and the export of terrorism and extremism to prevent this newest crisis from spiraling out of control.

Originally posted in Al Arabiya English

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.