Hard Liners Slam Rafsanjani

Today’s news is that Iran’s hard liners are not happy.

AP reports that Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi accused former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of encouraging further street protests by not condemning them in his Friday prayer sermon. (In fact, Rafsanjani demanded that imprisoned protesters be released, implying that they broke no law by protesting in the first place.)

This report by the official PressTV site says that the Tehran police chief announced the arrest of more demonstrators on Friday. But then at the end it says that many were found not involved in violence and released. The police chief seems to me to want to have it both ways. He did what Khamenei wanted and arrested demonstrators. But then he let most of those detained go on grounds that attending a rally in and of itself is not illegal in the Iranian constitution.

But a number of human rights lawyers were arrested Friday, including Shadi Sadr, and they have not been released. Amnesty International is concerned about Sadr because she has health problems requiring medication and was due to have an operation next week.

The official IRNA site in Persian says that Misbah-Yazdi complained that if it were not enshrined in the constitution, ‘some people’ would be denying the doctrine of the guardianship of the jurisprudent or clerical rule.

The official Iranian PressTV site in English tries to be balanced, quoting Yazdi [not Misbah Yazdi as I originally wrote] as saying that Rafsanjani made an error in not distinguishing between the origins of Islamic governance, which are from God, and its implementation, which does require popular acceptance. Other hard liners criticized Rafsanjani for asserting that there was a crisis in Iran. PressTV adds:

‘ Leader of the Association of Teachers and Researchers Ayatollah Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi on the other hand praised the sermon and called on officials to consider Rafsanjani’s words of advice. “By freeing detainees, relaxing media restrictions and condoling with the families of the victims of the unrest, officials can create an atmosphere where the people do not feel they are ruled by a certain group,” Ayatollah Mousavi Tabriz said on Saturday.

It also quotes former Tehran Mayor Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi in favor of Rafsanjani:

‘ Karbaschi, a top adviser to defeated Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi on Saturday described Rafsanjani’s comments as having great significance. “It attracted a large number of people from all walks of life, to prove their presence [on the country’s political stage],” he said. The former mayor of the country’s capital, said while the sermon addressed the concerns of “a significant number” of people, it also provided officials with solutions to effectively manage the “crisis”.’

The hard liners are also not happy that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appointed his son’s father-in-law, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as first vice president. Mashaie provoked a firestorm of controversy last summer when he said that Iran is a friend of the Israeli people. Presumably he was just making the standard distinction between being at odds with a government or an ideology, and the ordinary people of a country. If he had said ‘friend of the Jewish people,’ his statement would have passed without comment. But I think the controversy is that if one speaks of the ‘Israeli people,’ one is in effect recognizing Israel.

It is silly that Mashaie’s comment should be controversial.

But it should be pointed out that you can get into trouble with hard line Zionists in the US for saying you are a friend of the Palestinian people.

Hojjato’l-Islam Mohsen Qommi, a counselor on international relations to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, underlined Saturday that the doctrine of clerical rule or guardianship of the jurisprudent underpins the continuation of the Islamic revolution in Iran. I take it that the hard liners are afraid that the doctrine is now under severe threat, since so many people are openly chanting “death to the dictator” at rallies. Qommi is implying that those who hope to retain the victories of Khomeinism without acknowledging its foundational doctrine are fooling themselves. He dismissed the post-election demonstrations as merely a case of foreign powers buying crowds and interfering in Iran’s domestic affairs.

Trying to configure hundreds of thousands of fellow Iranians as mere foreign agents is not a winning strategy for the regime. Rafsanjani was trying to tell the hard liners that they have to find a way to bring those who felt that the election was stolen back into some sort of relationship of trust with the regime. Stigmatizing dissent as treason on behalf of foreign powers does the opposite. It won’t lead to stability in the medium to long term.

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