Archive for the ‘Iran – Assembly of Experts’ category

Escalation In Political – And Perhaps Also Physical – Threats To Iranian Expediency Council Head Rafsanjani

June 8, 2016

Escalation In Political – And Perhaps Also Physical – Threats To Iranian Expediency Council Head Rafsanjani, MEMRI, June 8, 2016

In recent weeks, Iran’s ideological camp has stepped up its threats against pragmatic camp leader and Expediency Council chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani. The threats have included calls for prosecuting him – as it is, relatives of his are frequently imprisoned – and for defining him as a deviant, a traitor, and an accessory to, and torch-bearer today of, what the ideological camp terms “the 2009 fitna,” that is, the civil unrest following the presidential elections. It will be recalled that the leaders of this movement – former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and his wife, and former Majlis speaker Mehdi Karroubi – have been under house arrest since 2011.

When discussing Rafsanjani, ideological camp members’ statements are harsh, even violent.[1] This tone attests to the escalation in the regime’s antipathy towards the man considered to be the leader of the move towards openness vis-à-vis the U.S. and the West, which brought about the JCPOA – in contrast to the position of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who considers the U.S. to be an enemy that Iran must not come to terms with it. It should be mentioned that the ideological camp considers the JCPOA a tool used by the pragmatic camp and by the U.S. to remove it from power.

Rafsanjani is perceived by the ideological camp as an existential threat to its regime and as constantly undermining the foundation of its control of the country’s institutions.[2] The current struggle between the ideological and pragmatic camps, and particularly the personal struggle between these camps’ respective leaders, has been ongoing for at least three years, and is currently at a high point (see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1137, The Power Struggle Between Khamenei And His Camp And Rafsanjani And His Camp – Part XIV, January 21, 2015, and MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5794, The Rafsanjani-Khamenei Struggle Escalates Into Open, Direct Confrontation, July 13, 2014).

Recently, Rafsanjani’s daughter Faezeh Hashemi was photographed meeting with a Baha’i activist with whom she had previously shared a prison cell. The meeting between the two women prompted the ideological camp to take immediate legal measures against Rafsanjani himself. The regime considers Bahaism to be a deviant and illegitimate cult, and its practitioners are persecuted and are denied civil and religious rights. It also considers Baha’is to be collaborators with Israel and the U.S. Although Rafsanjani distanced himself from his daughter’s actions, the ideological camp still considers them valid proof of his own treason.[3]

Due to the tremendous pressure on him, and the threats against him,[4] it appears that Rafsanjani had to relinquish his candidacy for head of the Assembly of Experts, even though he won the general elections for the assembly in February 2016.[5]

Even after his rival, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, was chosen to head the assembly, the attacks on Rafsanjani did not stop. The Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, published an article predicting the death of Rafsanjani, describing him as the pawn of the British and of the BBC. It added that since he was not chosen assembly head and can no longer serve the British, they no longer need him, and he would be more useful to them dead.[6]

In light of these developments, MEMRI assesses that the Iranian regime may no longer stop at harassing Rafsanjani’s relatives and associates,[7] and that there is a possibility that it will now move to harming Rafsanjani directly.

Following are threatening comments and actual threats made against Rafsanjani in recent days:

IRGC Commander Threatens Rafsanjani

On May 24, 2016, at a cadet graduation ceremony attended by Supreme Leader Khamenei, Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said: “Thanks to the Islamic Revolution and the awakening of mankind, monotheistic beliefs have spread in the region and in the world in this new age, and the garbage dump of Western culture has been set on the path of assured destruction. Nevertheless, some in the country who think a certain way are stealing glances at foreigners and speaking [highly] of the rotting values of Western cultures, in comparison with Iran’s noble religious values and culture.

“These [people] should know that the religious public in Iran, which is revolutionary and which nurtures martyrs, will not tolerate these thoughts, or those who have them, in Iran’s politics and culture. They must know that if they persist in their deviant path, they will meet with the same catastrophe as did those who preceded them in deviating from the straight path of the leader [Khamenei] and the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] and who remain infamous in the memory of the Iranian nation.

“The IRGC and the Basij accompany the spirit of revolution and values of the great Iranian nation, and will never allow some of the infiltration camps that are influenced by the West, that can be found within the apparatuses of the regime, to carry out deceptions or to force their foolish view on, and tarnish, the blessed life of the Islamic Revolution.”[8]

Kayhan Editorial: “The Baha’i And The New Infiltrators”

The May 18, 2016 editorial of the daily Kayhan, titled “The Baha’i and the New Infiltrators,” stated: “Ms. What’s-her-name [Rafsanjani’s daughter] travels with ease to America and England. While a BBC Persia reporter encounters visa problems with America, this lady does not. A few days before the election, she travels to America. Why? Do not assume the worst. Maybe she simply craved a McDonald’s sandwich.

“In July 2012, she pops over to England, saying that she is going to the Olympic Games, but her lawyer says that she went to visit her son, who was studying there… Something happens and her brother also arrives in London, remaining for several years on the pretext of visiting a certain university. Later, there come reports that he was involved in stepping up the sanctions [on Iran] as fuel for the green fitna…

“After her recent visit with one of the leaders of the Zionist-Baha’i channel, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani expressed – in three lines, no more – that Faezeh had made a mistake and must rectify it. She said that she had made no mistake, and that she had no regrets… [and Rafsanjani] distanced himself from the Baha’i cult… [that is] crooked and colonialist and that joined the leaders of the fitna in a collective project…

“Is it now time for you [addressing Rafsanjani] to renounce Baha’ism… or is it time for you to renounce those who are an organic part of the Baha’i [i.e. your daughter]… They [the Baha’i] denied [the existence of] the Mahdi [the Hidden Imam]… and, in London, they operated a computer room for the Green Movement…

“What should be done about a camp lacking in all cultural, political, and economic honor, which engages in forming [spy] rings and [political] parties, and in amassing capital? …

“We are currently in all-out cultural, political, and economic war with the historic enemies of the Iranian nation… The enemy came to the arena without fear… We must understand what operation is being planned by the enemy, and come to the arena without delay and without pleasantries.”[9]

Basij Commander Attacks Rafsanjani

On May 16, 2016, Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi said: “Infiltration elements [meaning Rafsanjani] are amassing a fortune and creating [socioeconomic] classes, increasing poverty, and then pop up to express concern for the poor. These people are behind the unnecessary large-scale imports, and when [Iranian] companies go bankrupt and when national production grinds to a halt, they say we must facilitate relations with the foreigners and compromise with America so that our problems will be solved.

“They meet with Sunnis [referring to Rafsanjani’s past good relations with the Saudis] and create many expectations for them, and then approach a camp that has does not believe in Sunni-Shi’ite unity and collaborate with it against the regime.

“This group of infiltration elements sits down with the Baha’i at the expense of Islam, while at the same time asking, ‘What has the [Islamic] Revolution done for Islam?’ …

“This group calls Basij members extremists because they zealously defended Islam or because they shouted their criticism. Yet it recognizes America as good despite its evil, interprets its crimes favorably, and says that we must compromise and make friends with [the Americans].

“This group of infiltration elements is attempting to blur the difference between truth and lies, and to present someone else as the main enemy. For example, it has a plan to paint Saudi Arabia as the main enemy, while compromising with America and maintaining relations with it.”[10]

Judiciary Spokesman And Prosecutor General Criticizes Rafsanjani’s Daughter

On May 18, 2016, Judiciary spokesman and prosecutor-general Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i said: “Faezeh Hashemi’s meeting with a member of the Baha’i cult is an ugly and condemnable act. We will deal with her in accordance with the law. As per my understanding, many people, including senior clerics and other known figures, have condemned this act. Even uglier was that her father spoke about this but that she did not apologize.”[11]

Assembly Of Experts Member And Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Criticizes Rafsanjani’s Daughter

In an interview with the Tasnim news agency, which is close to the IRGC, Assembly of Experts member and Tehran Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said: “In fact, Baha’i is not a religion, but an espionage party. The world of arrogance has completely supported this espionage cult, and still does. A fatwa by all the ayatollahs regarding Baha’ism is clear and unequivocal – [according to this fatwa,] it is a deviant cult that is outside the Shi’a and must be treated as foreign.

“Recently, a certain political figure met one of the leaders of this cult. We must condemn any behavior that will cause a break in the barrier against relations with this devious cult. In the Islamic regime [of Iran], no one must bring about the revival of this hated cult, neither on the pretext of human rights or on any other [pretext]. Certainly, meeting with a member of this cult is complete deviation and cannot be acknowledged as just a mistake.”[12]

 

Endnotes:

[1] See, for example, statements by Combatant Clergy Assembly member Jafar Shajuni, who said that Rafsanjani and his relatives are “anti-revolutionary and burned.” Entekhab (Iran), May 18, 2016.

[2] See, for example, statements by Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Heshmatzadeh Harisi, who, defending Rafsanjani prior to the assembly’s election of a new chairman, said he was not a traitor and that he did not seek to harm the Islamic Revolution. He added that even if Rafsanjani were to be elected Assembly of Experts head, he would not have the authority to enact constitutional changes regarding the status of the supreme leader. Entekhab (Iran), May 18, 2016.

[3] Many regime clerics have issued fatwas against the Baha’i.

[4] Combatant Clergy Assembly member Jafar Shajuni said on May 18, 2016: “The chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts should not fall into the hands of anti-revolutionists. Rest assured that it will not fall into the hands of Rafsanjani.” Entekhab(Iran), May 18, 2016.

[5] The Assembly of Experts chairmanship was ultimately given to Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who also heads the Guardian Council, even though he received the fewest votes in the Tehran constituency in the general elections for the assembly.

[6] Tasnim (Iran), June 6, 2016.

[7] See Rafsanjani’s harsh response following negative reports by Iran’s broadcast authority on him and the Islamic Azad University, which he owns. ILNA (Iran), May 19, 2016.

[8] ILNA (Iran), May 24 2016.

[9] Kayhan (Iran), May 18, 2016.

[10] Mehr (Iran), May 16, 2016.

[11] ISNA (Iran), May 18, 2016.

[12] Tasnim (Iran), May 18, 2016.

Hardliner Elected as Head of Iran’s Top Clerical Body

May 24, 2016

Hardliner Elected as Head of Iran’s Top Clerical Body, Washington Free Beacon, , May 24, 2016

(Please see also, What is a ‘Reformist’ in the Context of Iranian Politics? — DM)

Ahmad Jannati speaks during Tehran's Friday prayers October 15, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Ahmad Jannati speaks during Tehran’s Friday prayers October 15, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

DUBAI (Reuters) – A powerful anti-Western cleric was chosen on Tuesday as the head of Iran’s new Assembly of Experts, in a sign that hardliners are still in firm control of the body in charge of choosing the next supreme leader.

Ahmad Jannati, 90, is a an outspoken critic of President Hassan Rouhani and his attempts to end Iran’s global isolation by normalizing ties with the West.

The 88-member assembly, consisting mostly of elderly clerics, is expected to choose the successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 77 and rumored to be in frail health.

The supreme leader has the final say on all state matters, including foreign policy. He is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and appoints the heads of the judiciary, state broadcasting and major economic conglomerates. By comparison, the president has little power.

In a letter to the new assembly, carried by state media, Khamenei asked the new members to “guard the Islamic and revolutionary identity” of Iran and pay attention to the “personal and political piety of the (next) supreme leader”.

The selection of Jannati, with 51 votes according to state media, as the new head is likely to surprise voters in the February election who managed to block many hardliners from keeping their seats in the assembly. Jannati had squeezed in as the last of 16 members elected in the capital Tehran.

Jannati is also the chairman of the Guardian Council, a hardline vetting body that disqualified the majority of prominent reformist and many moderate candidates from running in the February elections.

Even by the standards of Iran’s clerical establishment, Jannati stands out for his virulently anti-Western opinions, once accusing the West of having created al Qaeda and describing U.S. forces in Iraq as “bloodthirsty wolves”.

Rouhani and his key ally, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, are also members of the assembly.

No new dawn in Iran

March 1, 2016

No new dawn in Iran, Israel Hayom, Ruthie Blum, March 1, 2016

For the past three years, the West has been tricking itself into seeing the Islamic Republic of Iran as a country undergoing a gradual process of reform. The outcome of Friday’s two elections — one for the Majlis (parliament) and the other for the Assembly of Experts — is serving as the latest mirage in the delusion.

In 2013, when Hassan Rouhani replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran, the United States and Europe took it as a sign of a new dawn. Even Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the chief mullah controlling Iran’s “elected” leader, came to understand that Rouhani was preferable to the volatile and fanatic Ahmadinejad, whose repeated pronouncements about wiping Israel off the map before attending to America were not serving Tehran in good stead.

Rouhani’s appearance on the international stage provided particular fantasy-fodder for supporters of a diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran’s race to obtain nuclear weapons and to guarantee its regional, and eventually global, hegemony.

Those people today feel vindicated for two reasons. The first is that world powers finally did reach a nuclear deal with Iran. The second is that Rouhani’s “pro-deal” camp emerged victorious in the latest parliamentary election, and two of the most hard-line ayatollahs were voted out of the Assembly of Experts, the body charged with appointing the supreme leader. And considering Khamenei’s advancing age and questionable health, this clerical assembly, which sits for eight years, is likely to end up selecting his successor.

To understand why the above is no cause for celebration, two crucial things need to be kept in mind: the only thing the nuclear deal accomplished was to enable Iran to step up its nuclear program, but with lots more money at its disposal; and Rouhani is no moderate.

Indeed, Iran continues to assert its right to nuclear power, while flexing its military muscles nearly daily by testing missiles and threatening the West not to intervene. In addition, celebrations less than three weeks ago marking the anniversary of the 1979 revolution that turned Iran into an Islamic state included chants of “death to America,” “death to Israel” and a reenactment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy’s humiliation of U.S. sailors who had strayed into Tehran’s territorial waters.

A review of Rouhani’s record also leaves little room for optimism. Though the Shiite cleric was not Khamenei’s preferred choice, he would never have been approved as a candidate in the first place if his revolutionary credentials had not been impeccable. And they certainly were.

Rouhani was a long-time Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini loyalist, who has always backed and spearheaded the quelling of any popular protests, employing any bloody means to nip them in the bud. The only real difference between him and his predecessor is in his strategic understanding of how to accomplish Iran’s goals by presenting himself as more palatable to the West.

In 1992, his eldest son committed suicide, leaving a note to this very effect, saying, “I hate your government, your lies, your corruption, your religion, your double-dealing and your hypocrisy. I am ashamed to live in an environment in which I am forced to lie to my friends every day and tell them that my father is not part of all this — to tell them that my father loves the nation and to know that the reality is far from this. I get nauseated when I see you, father, kissing Khamenei’s hand.”

But it was his resume that made Rouhani such an appropriate nuclear negotiator, a role he fulfilled for years. Addressing Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolution Council in September 2005, he explained the purpose of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing: “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the Isfahan facility,” he said. “By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work.”

It is this tactic that puts Rouhani in the “pragmatist” camp.

In July, after the completion of the nuclear deal was first announced — and then disputed as to its contents, perceived differently in Washington and Tehran — Rouhani made a speech to the Iranian public.

“Peace and blessings upon the pure souls of the prophets and the holy men, the great Prophet of Islam [Muhammad], the imams, the imam of the martyrs [Khomeini], and the exalted martyrs, especially the nuclear [scientists], and peace and blessings upon the Hidden Imam,” he began.

“We aspired to achieve four goals: The first was to continue the nuclear capabilities, the nuclear technology, and even the nuclear activity. The second was to remove the mistaken, oppressive, and inhuman sanctions. The third was to remove the Security Council resolutions that we see as illegitimate. The fourth was to remove the nuclear dossier from Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter and the Security Council in general. All four goals have been achieved today.”

He later referred to Israel’s warnings about the deal. “The people in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Lebanon are happy, too, because the hollow efforts of the oppressive Zionist regime to thwart the negotiations during the past 23 months have failed,” he said, ending with a message to the Arab countries of the region.

“Do not be misled by the propaganda of the Zionist regime and the evil-mongers of this [Iranian] nation,” he cautioned. “Iran and its might are always your might. We see the security of the region as our security, and the stability of the region as our stability.”

Let us not kid ourselves. Rouhani’s showing in the elections does not signify a new era of freedom for the Iranian people. Nor does it indicate a shift away from the regime’s sponsorship of global terrorism. On the contrary, if anything, it could provide American voters with a false sense of national — and international — security that is utterly unwarranted.