by Rasmus Christian Elling.
Yesterday, a communiqué from the Assembly of Experts appeared on the state-associated news agency Mehr’s website. In it, the Assembly praised Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene‘i’s Friday sermon. In other words, the Assembly expressed its full support for Khamene‘i’s assertion that Ahmadinejad won the election legally and without fraud, and that Musavi and Karubi should rein in the protesters.
Or did it?
The problem with the communiqué is that it is not signed by the head of the assembly but by its secretary, Ayatollah Yazdi – not to be confused with Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, but like Mesbah, also a staunch supporter of Ahmadinejad. The same Yazdi also expressed his opposition to Musavi in another statement today, this time speaking as a member of the Guardian Council.
Yazdi stated that ‘the political system is not required to satisfy Musavi’ and that Musavi is ‘showing his true self, little by little’. He repeated the Leader’s assertions about ‘foreigners’ abusing the current crisis and utilizing ‘certain people’ to their benefit; and that ‘the people’ would ‘neutralize’ these ‘conspiracies’ against the Islamic Republic. He also stated that several politicians, including Musavi’s representatives had ‘confessed’ that the elections had been ‘healthy’.
The actual leader of the Experts Assembly is of course none other than Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani, former president and among the founders of the Islamic Republic. The current crisis is tied up with the severe intra-elite rivalries and the struggle for power between Rafsanjani and Khamene‘i. Accusations of Rafsanjani being behind the current unrest is no longer limited to pro-Ahmadinejad weblogs, but has also spread to Western media.
But there is also reason to believe that Rafsanjani – at least for the moment – is losing this battle.
There have been constant rumors, for a week now, of Rafsanjani trying to muster clerical support against Ahmadinejad – and even that Rafsanjani was trying to call for an emergency meeting in the Experts Assembly, which has the power to oversee and even dismiss the Supreme Leader. However, Khamene‘i’s statement on Friday about Rafsanjani – that Rafsanjani was a comrade and that he was not accused of financial corruption (but that his relatives were) – makes such an action seem out of question.
In other words: since Khamene‘i has more or less ‘acquitted’ Rafsanjani, there is no longer good reason to believe that Rafsanjani is in an active process of ousting Khamene‘i. This is not to say that all is good between the two grand old men of the revolution. Indeed, Rafsanjani was not even present at Khamene‘i’s historic speech on Friday, and the war on Rafsanjani continues unabated in clerical and military circles – even with calls for Rafsanjani’s executions in some Basiji circles.
Khamene‘i is well aware of Rafsanjani’s actions. Indeed, there have been constant reports of Rafsanjani being under house arrest. While I doubt that he is or will be placed under a formal house arrest, he is of course being monitored, ‘protected’ and ‘advised’ by Khamene‘i’s men.
Furthermore, Iranian media today confirmed that five members of Rafsanjani’s family – including his daughter Faezeh Hashemi, who has been present during some of the protests – have been arrested. Shahab News claimed that the rather incredible reason for the authorities to arrest them was to protect them from being assassinated by ‘rioters’ and ‘terrorists’!
There can be no doubt that Rafsanjani is under severe pressure. The protest movement should not have high expectations from Rafsanjani in the near future.