Mohammad Mohaddessin is chairman of the International Relations Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the 532-member parliament in exile. Mr. Mohaddessin hails from the holy city of Qom and was trained in Islamic religious studies and jurisprudence. He is the author of Islamic Fundamentalism: The New Global Threat (Washington, D.C.: Seven Locks Press, 1993), an indictment of the Khomeini regime at home and abroad. As a member of PMOI executive committee, he has been a frequent target of Iranian government assassination attempts.
1. What is the importance of eliminating Rafsanjani?
The elimination of Rafsanjani from the masquerade of the presidential elections was upon the orders of Khamenei and should register as the greatest extraction and horrendous schism in the mullahs’ regime’s top circle. This is especially important as Khamenei has concurrently resorted to another major extraction; namely the disqualification of Ahmadinejad’s candidate Mashai.
To understand the importance of this development inside the regime, one should note Rafsanjani’s key and unparalleled role in mullahs’ regime from its very inception. Rafsanjani has been one of the most important figures in the regime during the whole of the past 34 years and is called the “regime’s pivotal figure”. When Khomeini was still alive, Rafsanjani was the number 2 figure in the regime and far more important than Khamenei. Following Khomeini’s death, he was instrumental in the appointment of Khamenei as regime’s Supreme Leader. As the head of the mullahs’ regime’s Exigency Council, he is Khamenei’s own appointee. Moreover, as a member of the regime’s Assembly of Experts, he plays a role in choosing the Supreme Leader and determining his competency within regime’s framework.
The elimination of Rafsanjani as the regime’s pivotal figure, especially by the Guardians’ Council, is a fiasco within the clerical regime and rids the regime of its credibility and legitimacy even within its most inner circles. This measure extends and deepens the schism and confrontation on top of the regime to within regime’s various factions in an irreparable fashion and can produce uncontrollable consequences for the regime in its entirety. The product of this massive filtering is the unprecedented intensification of tensions and disunity within the regime, leading to the regime’s expeditious disintegration and fall.
Rafsanjani has serious supporters in theological seminaries, the regime’s economic bodies, and even in the IRGC and intelligence and security organs; i.e. in all principal institutions of government.
In this measure, Khamenei effectively chopped off a considerable part of the regime.
2. The question here is that Rafsanjani is 80 years old and not at the beginning of his political career. If he speculated that such situation may arise, why did he register as a candidate to begin with?
Rafsanjani himself says that he felt the regime was in crisis and under threat so he decided to participate, but the truth is that due to the regime’s weakness in its entirety, especially with Khamenei losing his standing within the regime and the breaking of the spell of Velayat-e faqih, in particular after the 2009 uprisings, the power struggle has taken on new dimension and reached a critical state. From the onset, Khamenei tried to prevent Rafsanjani from entering the election game, but Rafsanjani felt he could come to the political scene and claim his share of the leadership. This move should be seen as an assault by Rafsanjani with Khamenei hitting back by disqualifying him.
3. Although the decision is made by the Guardians’ Council, everyone knows that Khamenei is behind the scenes. Khamenei knew that disqualifying Rafsanjani is not on the whole to the benefit of the regime or himself; so why did he do it?
Khamenei had no good choice where he could escape paying a price. He is well informed of the crises engulfing the entirety of the regime internationally, regionally and internally (including the nuclear crisis, the prospect of Assad’s downfall, and the regime’s economic crisis) that his regime is struggling with daily. He did his best to prevent Rafsanjani from entering the political scene by attacking him through his cohorts, including his minister of intelligence, in the days prior to registration, but he was too feeble to stop Rafsanjani. Once Rafsanjani registered, the equations changed for Khamenei and he faced a lose-lose situation where he would lose big with either choice:
•Eliminating Rafsanjani and accepting the consequences which meant his power base would become much more limited and fragile; a matter that may expedite the process of regime’s fall. Or
•Accepting Rafsanjani and the sharing of power with him which would in turn completely weaken the status of Vali-e faqih and hasten the process of regime’s disintegration.
Khamenei chose the first route that through elimination, filtering and contraction he is attempting to escape downfall. This is the same policy that during the past 24 years Khamenei has followed step by step cultivating on international and regional developments.
4. Why do you say this would hasten the process of toppling, while you are yourself stressing that during the past years he has consolidated his grip on power using this same method? What is the difference now?
It would be erroneous to think that in the previous periods the regime and Khamenei himself consolidated his grip on power merely through contraction and internal purging. These contractions and internal purges were based on windfall gains resulting from the war of Kuwait, the war of Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and the disarming of regime’s opposition by the U.S. that worked to consolidate Khamenei’s position. The era of these unearned feats is over now and the time to repay has arrived for the regime and Khamenei. The elimination of Rafsanjani was an unavoidable self-inflicting injury and a political suicide for Khamenei that will gradually have its consequences for the regime as a whole.
5. Why Khamenei did not permit Rafsanjani to participate in the elections and then, just as in 2005 through election-engineering prevent him from getting elected? This question may be posed from another viewpoint as well. Why Khamenei did not allow Rafsanjani to participate in the election and even win? After all, Rafsanjani is looking out for regime’s interests and these two worked with each other for eight years after Khomeini’s death in this same kind of power sharing; also in the past 24 years after Khomeini’s death they have gotten along despite their differences. What is going on?
The situation for the regime and Khamenei is not at all comparable to that of 8 years or 16 years ago. What we are witnessing is the climaxing of the route of contraction and incessant elimination of figures and political currents from within the regime to outside the regime. This is the route followed by the regime during these years, and especially followed by Khamenei in the past eight years.
We should note that the present situation is incomparable to any other era in the regime’s history. Eight years ago, the regime in general and Khamenei in particular, were in a different positions due to the unearned fruits of the occupation of Iraq. In fact, in the past twenty years, the regime and Khamenei have lived off the fruits of the war with Kuwait, and the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq and continued their existence.
However, this era is now over. Neither the regime nor Khamenei are in that position any more. The regime has entered a different phase now which can be best described as a phase where Khamenei will find himself continuously paying.
Concerning the composition of Khamenei-Rafsanjani: following Khomeini’s death Khamenei and Rafsanjani in fact shared power in a mutual agreement. But this time, Rafsanjani has entered the political scene opposing Khamenei and his policies; a matter that is now evident after Rafsanjani’s elimination.
Khamenei knew all too well that in the balance of power he is far weaker than 2005 when through “election-engineering” he defeated Rafsanjani and got his own candidate out of the ballot box. Therefore, this time he accepted this disgrace so that things would not get to that point at all and by setting aside all face-saving tactics he determined the case through the Guardians’ Council.