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Iran: Final Efforts to Purge Critics -- Moves to Eliminate Rafsanjani from the State Expediency Council

By Arash Bahmani, Rooz Online

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

No more than a month has passed since Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was replaced at the Assembly of Experts on Leadership with ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, news sites close to the principlists (a group of hardline conservatives who support the current administration of Ahmadinejad) demonstrate efforts to remove Rafsanjani from his remaining official position as the chairman of the State Expediency Council. This agency was formed to arbitrate or decide on differences between the government and the Majlis, but has in fact intervened in other disputes of the branches of the Iranian regime.

Khabar Online website close to Majlis speaker Ali Larijani has a news report of its reporter's interview with Mehdi Khorshidi Azad, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's son-in-law that quotes the latter saying, "A series of changes may in the near future take place at the State Expediency Council because the term of many of its current officers is coming to its end."

But in response to the question whether the changes would result in the participation of the president in the Council meetings (Ahmadinejad has been absent from the meetings for a long time now due to his dispute with Rafsanjani), Khorshidi Azad was cautious and said, "We must wait and see."

An editorial piece in Asre Iran website which is close to Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, Tehran's influential mayor and a former presidential candidate, heralded the possibility of a new round of attacks on Rafsanjani. "This year, the State Expediency Council's term will expire and so political and media attacks on Hashemi Rafsanjani are expected to intensify to impact his re-election to the leadership of the body," the editorial read.

Rafsanjani did not run for the leadership of the Assembly of Experts on Leadership - the position he had held for years - last year due to pressure from supporters of Ahmadinejad, a measure that is interpreted to have taken place with the desire of the leader of the Islamic republic.

Last year, there were also news reports that Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the leader of the Green Movement now under house arrest who challenged the integrity of the 2009 presidential election, had been invited to participate in the meetings of the State Expediency Council. Although this news was subsequently denied, it did bring forth criticism against Rafsanjani, as the head of the Council.

While Iran's supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei has called Ahmadinejad "an obeying person," the latter has continued to refrain from attending the Expediency Council meetings despite the leader's calls for his attendance. The head of the state run IRNA news agency Ali Akbar Javanfekr had called Ahmadinejad's absence "deliberate" and had said that the president had issues with the composition of the Council.

Ahmadinejad's criticism of the Council are raised again after his last attendance of the body's sessions in 2009, over 21 months ago. Even though some members of the Council interpret Ahmadinejad's absence to be come from the supreme leader, Fatemeh Rajabi believes that he does not want to participate in order not to sign on Rafsanjani's decisions. But Ahmadinejad himself has not said anything about his absence.

More recently, a news-site close to Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, published a commentary by Ali Akbar Javanfekr in which he says that Ahmadinejad was after changes in the composition of the Council. "The postures of some individuals after the election makes a review of the composition of the more and influential state bodies imperative. It is not right to expect the elected president to sit next to and speak with individuals who are confronting the regime and the supreme leader and who through their remarks and actions encourage the plots of the enemies of Islam, the country and the people," it reads.

Writing on Ahmadinejad's decision not to participate in the Council's sessions, the managing editor of Resalat newspaper Morteza Nabavi had written that, "In addition to being a legal issue, which I as a citizen demand, as can certainly other people, this is also the wish of the supreme leader."

Another highly visible person who has criticized Ahmadinejad's absence from the Council sessions is Mohsen Rezai, the current secretary of the body who also happens to be the former Revolutionary Guards commander and a former presidential candidate. "The internal rules of the Council have no provisions for the (participation or role) of the heads of the three branches of government, which should be redressed and approved by the supreme leader."

The differences between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani go back to 2006, after the former was elected president. Right from then, members of the State Expediency Council had begun widely criticizing the performance of Ahmadinejad's administration. In one of the more raging comments, Rafsanjani in 2008 made a reference to the orders of the supreme leader not to criticize the administration and said, "During these three years we have been lenient with him."

During this period, Ahmadinejad and his supporters have also attacked the Council on many occasions and have accused it of creating obstacles for the administration. In one of the more recent such remarks, Ahmadinejad himself said this of the Council: "It is not proper or even constitutional to reduce the powers of the president through normal laws and then change the constitution through the Expediency Council. Pressing to do something unconstitutional, amending the constitution and then refereeing the issue to the State Expediency Council is not in the interest of the regime. The Council should not be the place to regularly change the constitution because then we would have no need for the constitution altogether."

Later as differences between him and the Council increased he has said, "I am ready to serve the lowest strata of society and work for them but not meet people who are detached from the public but who have claims and are useless."

Gholam-Hossein Elham, the husband of Fatemeh Rajabi a vocal supporter of Ahmadinejad and a fierce critic of Rafsanjani, has also made harsh and regular attacks on the State Expediency Council and its chairman, and regularly accuses its members acting obstructingly.

New Round of Attacks

The way events are developing, it appears that Ahmadinejad's absence from the Council meetings and his harsh criticism of the body, along with those of his supporters, may actually come to fruit soon and impact the composition of the Council in his favor.

The recent comments about the removal of Rafsanjani from the Council are more prominent after Rafsanjani recently sent a condolence message for Mousavi. Rafsanjani's message to the "Mousavi House" (using a revered Persian language term) mentions Mir-Hossein Mousavi as a "serving and respected offspring."

This message by Rafsanjani has launched a new wave of attacks against him. Hardline Kayhan newspaper, whose editor is directly appointed by supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei wrote in this regard, "Rafsanjani's hasty message indicates that the latter continues to insist on disregarding the lines with the 2009 sedition." (Sedition is the term the Iranian regime uses for the protest movement that sprang up after the contested 2009 presidential election.)

Iran newspaper also wrote that Rafsanjani's message indicated that he has not changed his position and that he continues to support the revolt. It also said that Rafsanjani's praise of Mousavi were not in line with  the events of the last two years.

Jahan News website, close to Majlis representative Alireza Zakani also wrote that the condolence message that Rafsanjani had sent provided another opportunity for the enemies of the regime and revolution.

Criticizing Rafsanjani's condolence message, Absar News website also wrote that Rafsanjani of 2011 remains what he was in 2009.

According to Iran's constitution, the State Expediency Council is charged with providing counsel to the leader in determining the high-level policies of the state, providing to the leader solutions to the problems of the state that cannot be resolved through normal channels, presenting expedient solutions to situations when the laws of the Majlis are rejected by the Guardians Council, providing counsel to issues that are referred to the body the leader, monitoring the implementation of the general policies of the state, etc.

... Payvand News - 04/11/11 ... --

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