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Ayatollah Or Hojjatoleslam? Will Iran's Powerful Hashemi Rafsanjani Be Set Aside?

By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Former Iranian President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

In recent weeks, Rafsanjani has been very vocally criticizing the government and the powerful revolutionary guards for their handling the post-election events and for intolerance for the opposing views. This has resulted in sharp attacks against him and his family, most recently by the Intelligence Minister.

"Fararu," an Iranian news website, has posted a directive that is said to be from the deputy news director of Iran's official news agency IRNA.

A directive from the deputy news director of Iran's official news agency IRNA reportedly calls on the agency's news sections to refer to Iran's former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an ayatollah and a rival of Iran's current president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, as hojatoleslam, which is a lower religious title.

The directive also notes that Rafsanjani's job title is the head of Iran's Expediency Council and says the move is aimed at unifying the reporting of Rafsanjani's titles by the new agency. (Rafsanjani also heads the Assembly of Experts, which is in charge of selecting and dismissing Iran's supreme leader.)

But some analysts believe the IRNA directive is part of a government campaign against Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani has backed the opposition, criticized the crackdown against opposition members, and said publicly that the Islamic republic is facing a crisis.

At least one of Rafsanjani's children -- his daughter, Faezeh Hashemi -- has participated in several opposition rallies, including a protest last week on the occasion of National Student Day.

On December 9, Iran's Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi issued a warning, suggesting that Rafsanjani is among those standing against the Islamic establishment. Moslehi also said the government is preparing a lawsuit against Rafsanjani's son, Mehdi Hashemi, on corruption charges.

Mehdi Hashemi is currently out of the country.

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Ayatollah Rafsanjani slammed by Iran's Minister of Intelligence - 12/11/09

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Hashemi Rafsanjani: Iran's political disputes are grave!
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Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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