Rafsanjani bid for Iran’s presidency elicits hope
Persians are known for their patience, a quality that has rigorously been cultivated through the centuries-old art of rug making. Not only does rug making demand patience but also unconsciously teaches the importance of mediation.
Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential Iranian politician, writer, and the fourth president of Iran (1989-1997), supports a free market economy and Iranian oil companies. He is considered more dynamic in his political vision than many of his peers and a veritable contender to bring about change in the beleaguered nation.
That said, Rafsanjani is fully committed to the principles of Iran. And yet, he is more aware than others of Iranian interests and the need to realize the formula of stability and security. This formula is something that clergymen fear most. Indeed, internal and external stability can contribute to a transformation that can lead to reorientation in foreign policy in such a way that would clip the wings of the clergymen.
For this reason, some 100 members of the Iranian Parliament (out of 290 members) drafted a petition to the Constitution Council, urging it to reject the nomination of the former president of the Council of Guardians Hashemi Rafsanjani for presidential elections that will take place next month. This represents a kind of rivalry among different centers of power within the political and religious institutions in Iran. But many pundits have arrived at the conclusion that Iran is on the threshold of major transformations and if the cue is not taken now, there will be negative repercussions. The Iranian youth perceive the reformist trend in Iran as the key to change. Ideologies alone do not pay dividends and regardless of how pragmatic religious factions may be, where religion becomes a means to an end, it loses its significance. And these are the crossroads at which Iran stands today.
In the company of some researchers, I met Rafsanjani on the premises of the Council of Guardians. Among the delegation were Dr. Abd Elnafisi and Dr. Mustafa Al-Ani. There was an aura of gloom which was hard to miss. Iran lives in near isolation from the values of clergymen. Some of us were surprised to hear Rafsanjani defending the rights of Iran to build a peaceful nuclear program and criticize the West for being hypocritical in its policies vis a vis Iran.
Rafsanjani, who has been accused for corruption in the past and been famous for tough crackdowns on dissent, is no different from Khamenei but he is more popular among businessmen and technocrats. Back then, I thought that Rafsanjani would use the meeting to send a message that his political program was different and more reconciliatory. In that meeting, his messages to the Arabs could not be more obvious. He focused on the common history with the Arabs and he said that his country sought better and more normal relations in the region. Implicit in his message was that both Israel and the Western countries were messing up with these historic and political ties between the Iranians and the Arabs.
A few days ago, Rafsanjani announced his political platform in which he criticized those who tried to tarnish his reputation. He asserted his policy of moderation to defuse tension in Iran’s relations in the region and even with Israel. On a different occasion, he said that his country is not at war with Israel and that if Arabs had fought Israel, his country would have supported the Arabs.
And yet, Iran is in a crisis with its Arab neighbors. It is a country that lives in contradiction due to internal conflicts and for this reason it is on the verge of a profound social and political transformation. There is no credibility whatsoever in the clergymen’s desire to effect change. Perhaps, the only credible politician in this circle is Rahim Mashie who has no presence and is subject to a lot of criticism by religious leaders. Mashie indirectly criticized the concept of “Hidden Imam.” When his nomination was rejected, he sarcastically said that the awaited Mahdi had accepted his nomination.
Additionally, Iran is still going through the repercussions of the war with Iraq. To protect its religious project internally, Iran was compelled to have a presence in Iraq, to support the Shiite parties, to support Hezbollah, to back the Syrian regime and to support all forces that can be used by Tehran as tools to establish its sovereignty in the region. This has a clearly negative impact on Iran’s economy and domestic income. Added to this is the need to build military prowess at the expense of development.
In the present scenario, Rafsanjani emerges as a messiah who can save the regime. Nonetheless, religious men are in love with power as a source of influence, social status, and wealth. Therefore, they are not aware of the depth of the social transformation and poverty, which is rampant in the rural or war zones.
Rafsanjani is in the business of restoring the Iranian state and has taken the mantle on himself by running for elections. On May 11, 2013, Rafsanjani entered the race for the June 2013 presidential elections due in Iran. For the first time, someone has highlighted the sectarian and national diversity. Therefore, his program is based on moderation, inclusion, and respect for all political currents.
Will Rafsanjani make it in the upcoming election? If he does, it may pave the way for Iran’s reconciliation with the region and the international community besides all ethnic groups who are seeking their rights. Otherwise, these marginalized non-Persian minorities may feel the need for secession. As expected the clergymen will do their best to beat down both Rafsanjani and his moderate stance. The fate of Iran lies in the balance but only time will tell which party emerges successful.
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