IRAN: Rafsanjani reminds Khamenei of his duty to save the Islamic Republic
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly warned the nation's political class to rally behind him, calling the country's domestic troubles a test of their fealty to the Islamic Republic.
But in comments reported today, the relatively moderate Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani reminded the country's highest authority that he too was undergoing a test of his ability to pull the Islamic Republic out of its greatest political crisis in decades over the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rafsanjani's comments to the leaders of a small political party were a paean to moderation and stability, as well as a subtle warning about the dangers of extremists loyal to Khamenei himself.
"At the present juncture, I consider the supreme leader to be the most competent individual to resolve the problems the Islamic Republic is currently faced with," he said, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency.
"I'm quite sure that moderate individuals from both political camps in the country can help the supreme leader find solutions to the existing problems," he said.
Khamenei's power rests mostly among his hard-line supporters in the Revolutionary Guard and its associated Basiji militias as well as those close to the politics of Ahmadinejad.
Hard-liners and opposition supporters are gearing up for what could be a cataclysmic showdown on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Republic, when pro- and anti-government forces are expected to face off on the streets during one of Iran's most important political holidays.
A group of moderates such as former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and the Islamic Coalition Party is trying to forge some kind of political compromise between the pro-government and opposition camps, so far unsuccessfully.
Rafsanjani seemed to place himself in that camp.
"I've always based my action on moderation and refrained from any extremism," he said. "Since the victory of the revolution, we have not witnessed proper conditions any time extremists were given room to maneuver."
Rafsanjani's comments could be read as an answer to Khamenei's most recent remarks calling on the political class to get behind him or else.
He appeared to warn Khamenei that giving hard-line militias and vigilantes loyal to him a free hand in the crisis might ultimately backfire.
"Extremists have always cleared the way for counterrevolutionaries to damage Islam, the regime and its leadership," he said. "As far as I know the supreme leader, he never favors illegal acts and extremisms from any political factions."
Then he took what could be interpreted as a swipe at Khamenei and his allied hard-liners, who critics say have lost popular legitimacy and whose power now depends solely on the iron fist of suppression.
"The Islamic Republic has managed to reach stability thanks to popular support and the leadership of Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini who won people's hearts," he said. "Today, all forces loyal to the system and the revolution should feel obliged to safeguard this valuable legacy. The world will open to us if we effectively create a free and developed country free of any superstition."
-- Times staff
Photos: Above, Rafsanjani. Credit: Iran Chamber Society. Below, a demonstrator holds up a poster of Khamenei. Credit: Vahid Salemi / Associated Press.