The latest analysis by Persia House, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Iran shop, is out. It has an interesting analysis of the campaign against Rafsanjani, the powerful head of both the Expediency Council and Assembly of Experts. Persia House reviews the attacks by Ahmadinejad and his hardline supporters dating back to 2005 before analyzing the current situation:
In retrospect, Rafsanjani’s gamble seems to have lost. Now, with the Reformists and election opposition under severe pressure, he stands most prominently in the sights of Ahmadinejad’s cohort of hard-liners. Making matters worse for him, a new Friday prayer imam has been added to the four-man roster of Tehran prayer leaders which includes Rafsanjani; he will have less opportunity to take the bully pulpit. More recently, his son Mehdi Hashemi has been accused of embezzlement, money laundering, and forgery in a detainee’s confession, and may recently have fled to England. Rafsanjani has seen these events for what they most likely are: a “complicated conspiracy” to neutralize him.
For the time being, Rafsanjani seems to have retreated from his earlier support for the election opposition. A letter to him by Mehdi Karroubi alleging the abuse and rape of election protestors in prison has gone unanswered. And Rafsanjani has formally called on Iranians to follow the commands of the Supreme Leader. Khamenei, however, has long regarded Rafsanjani—a potential successor as Supreme Leader—as a threat and a rival. Having pushed many other prominent clerics out of the loci of power, the Supreme Leader will likely give Rafsanjani only the pretense of support, at best. In fact, during Rafsanjani’s two terms as president, he was both outsmarted and politically thwarted by Khamenei and other conservatives. In Ahmadinejad, Khamenei may hope he has found the man to finally rid him of this turbulent cleric.
How Rafsanjani’s fortunes fare now will depend on who comes out on top in the political power struggle between various factions of conservative hardliners, and whether or not he can influence the outcome of the fight. If Ahmadinejad and his supporters in the Islamic Republic Guards Corps (IRGC) have their way, Rafsanjani’s political career may well be over and the path cleared of a major obstacle to a military-intelligence takeover of Iran’s government. Such a turn of events would be dramatic, since for thirty years, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has deftly scaled the treacherous heights of Iranian politics. Should he lose his footing and fall now, it would be a very long way down indeed.
Enduring America makes a compelling argument against the assessment that Rafsanjani has “retreated.” This debate will likely go on until he makes his next [public] move.
Simultaneously, Persia House translates an article by the Iran’s official news agency linking Rafsanjani’s most recent speach to the Freedom Movement of Iran, a party banned in Iran in 1991. Persia House concludes that, “By attempting to link Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to the Freedom Movement, some in the regime may be trying to lay the groundwork for his eventual arrest or ouster.”
Persia House adds, “It is noteworthy that the article calls Rafsanjani by the Shi’a clerical title “hojat-ol-Eslam” (literally “proof of Islam”). Rafsanjani is in fact an “ayatollah”(or “sign of God”), a rank higher than hojat-ol-Eslam. Calling him by a lower designation is disrespect by demotion, and a very obvious insult.”