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Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 01:18 | SYDNEY
Sunday 20 Aug 2017 | 01:18 | SYDNEY

Iran: Waiting for Rafsanjani

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22 June 2009 11:24

Supreme Leader Khamenei’s no-compromise address at Friday prayers in Tehran seems to have had some effect. By most accounts, Saturday’s demonstrations were smaller (though by how much we don’t know) and the response by the security forces was fiercer.

We have still not heard publicly from former president and key regime figure Rafsanjani since the election. As Gary Sick has argued, it was highly significant that Rafsanjani was nowhere to be seen as the Supreme Leader read the riot act to both the demonstrators and regime dissenters on Friday.

It was noteworthy, however, that the man some have dubbed the accidental revolutionary, Mir Hussein Musavi, still refuses to back down. In a statement released following Khamenei’s Friday address, he upped the ante, saying that the stolen election reflected an even deeper malaise within the regime.

Musavi clearly feels a responsibility to the demonstrators and to the lives already lost. But directly or indirectly he is also channelling Rafsanjani, who backed him strongly in the election. 

In his Friday address, Khamenei extended a rather thorn-covered olive branch to Rafsanjani, his erstwhile ally and now rival, effectively telling him there was still time to fall back into line. Musavi’s response may well have been Rafsanjani’s initial retort. If Rafsanjani is going to be able to mobilise regime elements against Khamenei he needs to demonstrate that the Supreme Leader, or at least his actions, have put the whole regime at risk. In this regard, Musavi not caving in is as critical as what happens on the street in coming days.

Still, Rafsanjani is nothing if not mercurial. If he comes out and publicly backs the Supreme Leader – or if he is arrested — then any challenge from within the regime will be over. This, in turn, would probably demoralise the demonstrators, at least in the short term, and would reduce the other major threat to the regime – the risk that the security forces might split.

Photo by Flickr user siavush, used under a Creative Commons license.

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