by Rasmus Christian Elling.
Will the establishment seek to appease the reformists?
While the state apparatus has admitted that there were ‘irregularities’ – which could in itself be seen as a gesture to the protest movement – I still don’t believe that there will any major concessions: Khamene‘i has stated several times that Ahmadinejad is the clear winner, that his victory was divinely inspired and that there can be no discussion about the results. In its attempt to control the chaos and justify its actions, it will be very hard for the regime to admit to any major wrongdoing.
However, there are still rumors that Khamene‘i together with oppositional forces and high-ranking clerics will try to work out some kind of compromise: that there might be a new run-off between Ahmadinejad and Musavi; that the issue will be referred to the (Rafsanjani-controlled) Expediency Council rather than the (pro-Ahmadinejad) Guardian Council; and that, since the deadline for investigating fraud in the Guardian Council has been extended for five days, there can still be some kind of face-saving gesture on its way. However, I personally do not believe that the state (that is, Khamene‘i) will allow any of these measures – which leads me to the next question:
Will Rafsanjani try to oust Khamene‘i through the Experts Assembly?
There has been a steady stream of rumors alleging that Rafsanjani is seeking to gather clerical support for ousting Khamene‘i, and in particular, that a majority of the Experts Assembly have agreed to Rafsanjani’s call for convening an extraordinary session. There have even been rumors that Rafsanjani wants to replace the position of the Leader with a ‘college’ of clerics.
However, none of the reports have been verified. If they are true, it seems that Rafsanjani has failed (at least in his early attempts); and if they are untrue, the rumors must be dismissed as nothing more than the anti-Ahmadinejad coalition’s information warfare against the government.
Khamene‘i praised Rafsanjani as a comrade in last week’s sermon. He would probably not have done so if a Rafsanjani-led coup attempt were under way in Qom (something the Leader would clearly be aware of). Furthermore, even though the Experts Assembly is mandated to oversee the performance of the Leader, it is not easy for it to dismiss the Leader. I think it would demand a near-consensus – and, some observers claim, a re-write of the constitution. On top of this, the latest news is that Rafsanjani is apparently composing a communiqué in which he will praise the Leader.
Thus, even though rumors of Rafsanjani’s maneuvers persist, I do not see them as credible. Rafsanjani is certainly struggling to maintain his power and his allies in the clerical world – something the shrewd cleric is known to be good at. However, this does not mean that he is preparing to remove Khamene‘i. The Economist mentions speculations of Rafsanjani’s impending capitulation:
“So complete is Mr Rafsanjani’s eclipse, at any rate for the time being, that information on his movements and intentions now consists of hearsay. According to one account, he has been busy in the seminary town of Qom, canvassing senior clerics to back a move to sack Mr Khamenei. Another suggests he may signal his surrender to the inevitable by attending Friday’s prayers, whereas he was conspicuously absent when Mr Khamenei gave his sermon on June 19th. “
Nonetheless, intra-clergy politics is probably the least transparent and predictable of all sectors of Iranian politics. This is surely not the last we hear from Rafsanjani. It is, however, important to remember that Rafsanjani is notorious for defending his own interests, even if it demands an about-face. As I have written earlier, the protest movement should not have any hopes or expectations from Rafsanjani.
Just before I was going to post this piece, I saw that the Expediency Council – the Rafsanjani-led assembly set up to resolve conflicts between Parliament and the Guardian Council and to advise the Leader – has met today and released a statement. It praises the Leader – as always in this kind of communiqués – and hails the Iranian system of ‘religious popular rule’ (mardom-sâlâri-ye dini) as having prevailed in a glorious election that has chocked the ‘world that claims to be democratic’. The Assembly then sums up three points:
1) That both sides of the struggle adhere to the law to solve their differences
2) That the Guardian Council review all claims of fraud, which includes using ‘experts’ and creating confidence in the public
3) That all candidates cooperate closely with the Guardian Council
I think that this communiqué further supports my points above.