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Rafsanjani's Deal?


05 Oct 2009 19:016 Comments
8_880314_L600.jpg[ dispatch ] Politicians and officials linked to both Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani have released the draft of a plan to calm the crisis of protests and detentions that have continued since June's disputed presidential election, according to a September 29 story published by Fars News Agency.

"Currently experienced and concerned individuals of the establishment are in the process of designing a blueprint providing a solution for the current situation," said Rafsanjani in his September 22 address to the Assembly of Experts, according to a translation from EnduringAmerica.com.

The fact that the plan exists and was publicized in Iran's state media marks a giant shift in the public stance of the parts of the government controlled by the Supreme Leader. However, reform leaders have remained mostly silent on the plan -- they appear to be waiting to see whether the plan is formally proposed as anything more than a draft and how seriously it is pursued.

The Unity Plan

The proposed "project of national understanding" proposes a nine-member panel that would investigate charges of electoral fraud, prisoner abuse, and the sources of unrest following the election. The first section of the plan invites the Minister of the Interior, a representative of the Guardian Council, and Presidential candidate and reform leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to present their evidence on alleged fraud in the disputed election.

The plan directly contradicts earlier statements from the Supreme Leader that closed the discussion on the election. Iran's Supreme National Security Council also recently forbid further coverage in Iran's media of the election or the candidates who supposedly lost.

However, it's unlikely that the draft appeared without the Supreme Leader's approval, since the story describing it was published and is for now still available on Fars, a news agency sponsored and overseen by the regime. Also, more than half of the members of the proposed commission listed in the Fars story are close either to the Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani, or both, including:

• Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, who supported the regime during the protests

• Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, who led the Judiciary during much of the crisis

• Ali Akbar Velayati, who was Foreign Minister under Presidents Mousavi and Rafsanjani and is now an advisor to the Supreme Leader

• Hassan Rohani, a representative of the Supreme Leader on the Supreme National Security Council, though he is reportedly loyal to Rafsanjani

• Aboutorabi Fard, the deputy parliament speaker

• Mahmoud Doai, chief editor of Etalaat News

• Masih Mohajeri, editor of Jomhuri Eslami newspaper

• Habibollah Asgar Owladi, leader of the Motalefeh Party

The ninth member of the panel would be "a representative of the opposing candidate (Mousavi)."

The plan comes after the seeming failure of the government's system of checks and balances on the power of the Supreme Leader and the President. The Guardian Council, appointed by the Supreme Leader and other jurists, quickly approved the Presidential election results despite widespread allegations of fraud. The Parliament, under pressure from the Supreme Leader, approved Ahmadinejad's cabinet despite these allegations. The Judiciary, its chief appointed by the Supreme Leader, nullified the claims by Mehdi Karroubi that certain prisoners arrested during post-election protests had been abused. Most recently, the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to oversee the Supreme Leader's performance but whose 86 members are stacked with his allies, issued a statement praising Khamenei's handling of Iran's post-election crisis despite massive turmoil and protests.

Green silence

Websites and publications associated with the green movement have remained largely silent about the draft of the proposed plan -- perhaps waiting for something more solid than a draft. For example, Salaamnews.com and the Facebook page associated with Mousavi have focused instead on the latest public protests and on stories such as nuclear negotiations with the United States, the release of reformist Saeed Hajjarian, and the recent meeting of the Assembly of Experts.

Iran's leading religious authorities, the grand ayatollahs or "sources of emulation," have also mostly remained mostly silent on the plan, including several who continue to publish statements against the regime's abuse of human rights.

One exception has been Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi. "A committee comprised of MPs and certain elite people outside the Majlis should... create friendship between political groupings so that these disputes end," he told seminary students and religious figures at a September 30 meeting in Qom, according to an October 1 story in the Tehran Times, another news source linked to the state.

Mousavi has also hinted that he expected meaningful concessions from the regime in response to the massive demonstrations that took place on Quds Day, September 18.

"Those who felt defeated by this year's Quds gained the most. They saw in the clearest sense that three months of unprecedented violence did not have the smallest effect on the presence of the people, and in fact, made it stronger," he said in his "Statement #13" released September 27, according to a translation by blogger Khordad 88.

"If not for the opportunity on Quds day, it would have been months from now when they would have been met with their own blunders," Mousavi continued. "They would have come face to face with the high cost of their own mistakes at a time when it would have been much too late."

Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau

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With respect, you are way behind the story here. In the six days since the Fars "plan" appeared, it has been denied or marginalised as an "early draft" by many key people inside Iran. Indeed, there is a rival "plan", publicised by Hayate No and then Parleman, which is claimed to have Rafsanjani's approval (Rafsanjani never associated himself with the Fars plan, which is reported to have been drafted by six Principlist leading figures.)

Rafsanjani himself has now come out with a prominent but somewhat cryptic statement on his website, warning people not to believe any news on the "Plan" unless it comes from the Expediency Council.

We're tracking all of this closely at Enduring America (www.enduringamerica.com).

Scott Lucas / October 5, 2009 8:10 PM

Thanks for your update — a lot has come to light since I turned in my story a few days ago. Still I wouldn’t totally discount Rafsanjani’s influence even over news stories that he has distanced himself from, especially since the stories are helping to create a feeling of inevitability around the so-called “unity plan,” whichever version it finally appears in. Even the Fars version of the plan now attributed to the conservative Principlists would steer the regime in a sharply new direction and could require serious concessions from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies.

The Supreme Leader is adding to the feeling of inevitability about the plan by allowing these stories to appear. Interestingly, the Supreme Leader also replaced the commander of the Basij militia over the weekend. The new commander has reason to hate Ahmadinejad, who fired him from a prior position, according to www.roozonline.com.

Bendix / October 6, 2009 9:32 AM

Bendix, do you have an URL fror the roozonline story about the new Basij commander and Ahmadinejad? I'm interested in seeing how a president with no formal authority over the military managed to "fire" a high ranking figure in the IRI military.

(I looked for it on roozonline but couldn't find it)

-Mark Pyruz

Mark Pyruz / October 6, 2009 10:58 PM

First, apologies if I sounded a bit snarky in original post --- we were caught up in some very confusing developments over the competing plans, and I fear I let frustration spill over into my post.

I agree with you that there is significance in that either plan would be a "defeat" for Ahmadinejad --- thus a crucial showdown may be in the offing. But, before getting to that point, it looks like there is a struggle for who gets to shape the challenge. I wouldn't rule out Rafsanjani's involvement with the Fars plan, which appears to be an earlier draft than the "rival" plan that came out in Hayate No/Parleman, but I do think he is now on a different path, either through the rival plan or his own agenda (getting judicial clearance of his family, releasing allies from detention).

The closing of Farhange Ashti newspaper yesterday adds to the sense that there are fights now only between Ahmadinejad/allies and others in "establishment" but amongst those establishments elements.

Thanks for tip re new Basij commander.

Scott Lucas / October 6, 2009 11:15 PM

I really appreciate the comments. To reply to Mark: the new Basij commander once had a political job. According to the roozonline.com story:

"In 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appointed Naghdi to head the Committee to Combat Drug and Currency Smuggling. One week later, however, Ahmadinejad dismissed Naghdi after he accused one of Ahmadinejad’s prominent campaign donors, Seyyed Rostam Aghakhan, of running a smuggling operation."


Bendix / October 7, 2009 2:12 AM

Bendix, thanks so much for the URL. (I was actually looking on the Farsi site, didn't think to check the english one).

Another bio is offered by Naj over at her neo-resistance blog.

Thanks again,
Mark Pyruz

Mark Pyruz / October 7, 2009 6:26 AM