In the Arena

Iran: Rafsanjani Speaks

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It isn’t over in Iran. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke at Friday prayers today and while he didn’t condemn the results of the election, he certainly didn’t wave the white flag either:

“Doubt has been created,” Mr. Rafsanjani said. “There are two currents. One doesn’t have any doubt and is moving ahead with their job. And there are a large portion of the wise people who say they have doubts. We need to take action to remove this doubt.” His remarks were translated by news agencies.

Mr. Rafsanjani said the turmoil after the ballot “was a bitter period” in which “all were the losers,” The Associated Press reported. Calling for national unity, he criticized the brutal official crackdown.

“Sympathy must be offered to those who suffered from the events that occurred and reconcile them with the ruling system,” he reportedly said. “This is achievable.” 

“If the Islamic and Republican sides of the revolution are not preserved, it means we have forgotten the principles of the revolution,” said Mr. Rafsanjani, who was regarded as close to Ayatollah Khomeini.

Mr. Rafsanjani said it was vital to restore voters’ faith in the system, The A.P. said. “That trust cannot be brought back in a day or a night,” he said.

He added: “We all have been harmed. Today more than ever we need unity.” He also took issue with the authorities’ handling of the post-election unrest.

“I speak as a person who has been with the revolution on a daily basis,” he said. “We knew what Imam Khomeini wanted. He didn’t want the use of terror or arms, even in fights.”

So what does this mean? As an Iranian friend of mine predicted yesterday, this means that Rafsanjani intends to lead an Iranian opposition front to the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad government. Given his stature–he is the one opposition leader who is part of the regular Friday Prayer rotation–this seems a clear indication that Iran remains something less than a totalitarian state, controlled by the Revolutionary Guards. The question now is: how broad an opposition front? Will it include people like Mohsen Rezaie and Ali Larijani, conservatives who are at odds with Ahmadinejad, as well as the Green Revolutionaries? Will it include conservative newspapers like Resalat, which have been critical of Ahmadinejad? Will it be able to moderate the ruling junta in any way? 

There’s no way to know…but it is good to know that the struggle in Iran continues, and may now have an organizing force.