NY Times Analysis: Rafsanjani seeking the mantle of Khomeini

He was also essentially usurping the institutional role of Ayatollah Khamenei.
“This was a speech Khamenei should have given,” said Farideh Farhi, a political scientist at the University of Hawaii. “That’s his designated role as the spiritual and political guide, to be above the fray. But Khamenei is probably too insecure and has too much to lose. He took sides. Rafsanjani rose to the occasion.”

The NY Times also reports that Ahmadinejad has selected Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as his first deputy. The Times describes the pick as controversial but doesn’t mention that last year Mashaei found himself in hot water with conservatives for saying, “No nation in the world is our enemy, Iran is a friend of the nation in the United States and in Israel, and this is an honor. We view the American nation as one with the greatest nations of the world.”
Press TV reports on the conservative criticism of the appointment:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s choice of vice president has met with a hail of criticism, provoking calls from his Principlist supporters for the resignation of the newly appointed veep.

The hardline Ayatollah Yazdi, who strongly supports Ahmadinejad, attacked Rafsanjani for focusing on will of the people (AFP):
“The legitimacy of the government is given by God,” the ISNA news agency quoted Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi as saying.
“Acceptance by the people doesn’t bring legitimacy to (an Islamic) government. Mr Hashemi Rafsanjani ignored this important Islamic point and talked in both parts of his sermon yesterday as if governments are assigned only by the people.”
Kayhan newspaper slams Rafsanjani (AFP):
The Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed by Khamenei, accused Rafsanjani of backing lawbreaking through his implicit support for the demonstrators who have clashed repeatedly with riot police and militiamen since the June 12 vote.
“Mr. Rafsanjani says a great number of people cast doubt on the election. But he doesn’t say why,” the newspaper said.
“If people have a suspicion, it is about… what’s behind the riots,” it added, in an allusion to accusations by regime hardliners that foreign hands have been behind the wave of protests that saw thousands take to the streets again on Friday after Rafsanjani’s sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers. […]
But Kayhan took issue with the former president’s description of the situation as a “crisis.”
“Mr Hashemi knows what crisis means… but plot is the best word to describe the current situation,” the paper said.

The family of Iranian-American Kian Tajbakhsh fears show trial (AP):

“We are concerned that Kian is being held in an attempt by the Iranian authorities to obtain forced statements from him to use in a televised show trial,” the statement says. “Such statements are repeatedly extracted under conditions of torture for the sole purpose of staging televised show trials in an attempt to deceive the Iranian public.”
The statement was also posted on a Web site the family and associates have organized to draw attention to his captivity.
NIAC has called for Tajbakhsh’s release.
West must close Iran nuclear file: new atomic chief (AFP):

Iran’s new atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday that the West should close the Islamic republic’s nuclear file and cease its hostility towards Tehran.
“Legal and technical discussions about Iran’s nuclear case have finished … and there is no room left to keep this case open,” Salehi said in his first remarks since being appointed Friday to head Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation. […]
“We hope that more efforts be made (by the West) in order to obtain mutual confidence instead of the past six year’s hostile era and this case… will be closed as soon as possible,” Salehi said. […]
Salehi is known as an open minded administrator and he was the one who signed the protocol with the IAEA in December 2003 which gave the UN agency a freer hand in inspecting Iran’s nuclear sites.
Experts debate the significance of Rafsanjani’s speech
Reza Aslan:

For a man who has made a career out of mediating from the middle and playing both sides, Rafsanjani delivered an unusually pointed criticism of the Iranian regime’s handling of the election crisis.

Hooman Majd:

It was about as good as one could expect, if one is with the opposition, in terms of the kind of speech that someone like he would make. And there also must be remembered that the Ahmadinejad supporters in Iran despise Rafsanjani.

Afshin Molavi:

Rafsanjani did not take the wind out of the sails of the protestors. He did not offer a conciliatory speech, as some thought, and he said that this political fight will last another day.

Trita Parsi:

Rafsanjani very cleverly positioned himself as a unifying figure, emphasizing the need to bring everyone together. That was an indirect attack on the Supreme Leader, who has been widely accused of abusing his position by being so partisan in backing the Ahmadinejad faction. When the Supreme Leader is incapable of bringing about unity within the system, then anyone else who is capable of achieving that will strengthen his position relative to the Supreme Leader.

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