Rafsanjani and his views on cooperation with Saudi Arabia

Under Hassan Rowhani’s presidency, Rafsanjani became more comfortable in propagating his moderate views

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Hashemi Rafsanjani is the most prominent veteran politician in Iran. But being experienced has not made him the most influential, as he was humiliated and harassed during the Ahmadinejad’s presidential term, when both his daughter and eldest son were imprisoned.

Despite all that, Rafsanjani remains the voice of wisdom and consciousness in Iran. Although he is not in a powerful and effective position, his opinion remains important in Iran, where major changes went underway after moderate President Mohammad Khatami’s terms ended. Iran is being ruled today by the Revolutionary Guard that has converted from being a force serving men of religion, to a dominant army served by men of religion. Benefiting from Ahmadinejad’s era, the Revolutionary Guard expanded its authority and took over investment centers, oil companies and other security and militant bodies.


With Hassan Rowhani’s election as president, Rafsanjani has become more comfortable in propagating his moderate views, the last of which was last week, when he called for close cooperation with Saudi Arabia to end regional tensions.

Rafsanjani’s rhetoric

In light of the region’s current soaring situation, Rafsanjani’s reconciliation advice should be taken into consideration. His advice is important for anyone living in a region with more than 300 million inhabitants, who are continuously suffering or threatened by permanent fears of wars and political violence. When taking a close look at the situation inside Iran, one will certainly not believe that Rafsanjani can influence a rabid leadership that is only interested in managing wars in the region. Iran today is at the peak of its intervention in the region’s battles, ever since the Iranian revolution.

Indeed, there are positive politicians like Rafsanjani, Khatami and now Rowhani reaching the throne but they remain without a scepter. The key decision-making positions, which can control the country’s decisions, are in the hands of extremist elements.

If Tehran decides to shift its political views toward more openness and offers to reconcile with the region’s countries, we will see a greater state, enjoying more respect and influence in the region and the world.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Don Quixote-like confrontations

Nevertheless, Rafsanjani’s call for reconciliation is not useless as it might help pessimists inside Iran to understand the nature of their problems. As a country rich in natural resources and wonderful citizens, Iran suffers from one thing: its leadership’s continuous policy of Don Quixote-like confrontations since the eruption of the revolution. Iran is one of the few countries that are still closed up at a time when tens of extremist powers in the world abandoned their policies and adopted a reconciliatory approach, including countries that inspired the Iranian revolution like China and the Soviet Union and countries like Vietnam that have suffered way more than Iran.

The Iranians have been besieged and living in poor conditions for 35 years. If Tehran decides to shift its political views toward more openness and offers to reconcile with the region’s countries, we will see a greater state, enjoying more respect and influence in the region and the world. Turkey is one model to consider as it has far less resources than Iran, and yet enjoys special state and citizenship status, without being forced to send soldiers or spend financial resources on any regional wars, except when protecting its own borders.

Follow the leader

Unlike Turks, Iranians have been suffering for more than three decades, because of their leaders’ policies who dream of regional dominance and support regimes and groups that do not mean anything to the Iranian people, like the Assad regime, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Sudan’s dictator, Yemen’s Houthis and some rebels in the Gulf areas. Does any Iranian see a benefit from supporting such regimes? Of course not.

Rafsanjani’s recommendation to reconcile with Saudi Arabia is a wise decision that will benefit all parties and end the misery of millions of Syrians, Lebanese, Yemenis, Afghans and others. As to why we believe that Iran and not Saudi Arabia, is responsible for this initiative, the reason is obvious; because the fire torch is in the Iranian leadership’s hands and I am confident that Saudi Arabia is ready to be a friendly country and not just a neutral neighbor to Iran. Rafsanjani has once visited the kingdom and spent two weeks as a guest of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. He moved around there without any restrictions and met whomever he wished to meet. Nevertheless, despite this warm relationship, the problem continued because the leadership in Tehran was not really interested in the reconciliation and misused the agreements signed during Rafsanjani’s term. It has even used an airline bureau as an office for its activities.

The Iranian leadership can ignore Rafsanjani’s calls and thus, miss out on the opportunity, but a day will come when the people will be fed up with the life of misery and wasting their money on foreign regimes and parties, especially that the only output of these games is to build personal wins for the Iranian leaders. It is the same dream that the Shah had hoped for, but became later on, the dream that costed him his throne.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 3, 2014.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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