Persia House, the Iran policy shop of Booz Allen Hamilton, has their latest take of the continued maneuverings of Ayatollah Heshemi Rafsanjani:
Despite Rumors of Rafsanjani’s Possible Demotion, the “Shark” Survives Yet Another Round in his Battle with Hardliners
The widespread talk of Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s possible demotion surrounding the latest Assembly of Experts meeting (held after a one-month delay  due to the post-election unrest) illustrates the serious challenges that the Chairman continues to face from powerful hardliners, who have for years been attempting to sideline him. A pragmatic, wily, and extremely wealthy politician, Rafsanjani exists as a major obstacle in the hardliners’ struggle to gain unchallenged control over the regime’s levers of power.
Rafsanjani has frustrated observers attempting to pinpoint his political stance, as he has swayed back and forth in the months following the disputed June 2009 presidential election, drifting along with the political tide. Early on in the post-election unrest, the regime heavyweight excited supporters of the Green Movement by appearing  to support the opposition against his bitter rival , Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This was followed by a period in which he was relatively quiet , perhaps out of concern for his and his children’s  well-being. In recent weeks, however, Rafsanjani has made a point of stressing his revolutionary credentials and of emphasizing the “strength ” of his relationship with Supreme Leader Khamenei. During the February 11 Islamic Revolution’s anniversary, for example, he marched alongside regime supporters at the same time that opposition protesters were being beaten by security agents. Furthermore, in his February 23 address  to the Assembly of Experts, Rafsanjani surprisingly declared his support for President Ahmadinejad’s subsidy  reform plan, saying that, although the removal of government subsidies will place short-term pressure on the country, “in the long run, it will have sweet results.”
The rift between hardliners and Rafsanjani is exemplified by his ongoing dispute  with Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi (who did not attend the important Assembly of Experts meeting; he was placed  in the intensive care unit of Qom’s hospital the night before) over the role of velayat-e faghih, or the Supreme Leadership. Yazdi contends that the Supreme Leader’s legitimacy is derived from God and cannot  be questioned. Rafsanjani tends toward the belief that the individual in that position should be subject to the oversight of the 86-member Assembly of Experts, which has the (little exercised) constitutional authority to select, supervise, and remove him. Furthermore, Yazdi and other hardliners have been upset with Rafsanjani for a number of years because of his suggestion that a three-man leadership council replace the position of Supreme Leader following Ali Khamenei’s death; realizing the low likelihood of his being chosen as the new Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani likely feels that such a council would allow him to maintain his influence.
As for predictions that the Assembly meeting would be a bloodbath for Rafsanjani, a participant relayed  that the atmosphere “was a lot warmer than previous sessions.” And pictures  of the February 25 meeting of the Assembly with the Supreme Leader showed Rafsanjani and Khamenei holding a cordial conversation—an indication that the Chairman has survived yet another round. Notwithstanding the animosity felt by Yazdi and his allies, the Supreme Leader would almost certainly prefer that Rafsanjani be brought back into the fold and unequivocally back on the side of the regime.
The impact that the past few days’ machinations within the Assembly of Experts will have on the Green Movement remains to be seen. Some may see Rafsanjani’s statement  during the proceedings—that the solution to resolving the post-election unrest lies in working within the framework of the Islamic Republic’s institutions—to be an attempt at mediation. Others will likely be disheartened by his claim that “some [protesters] have been deceived” by those operating against the Islamic Republic.
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