On the death of Tehran’s besieged fox

The regime lost its hawk years ago and then it weakened him until he became powerless

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Elegies that Iran’s regime is now in danger following the death of its pillar, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani are not true. The regime lost its hawk years ago and then it weakened him until he became powerless and without any real official value. He was isolated and under surveillance. Most of his men were distanced from governance salons.

They jailed his daughter Faezeh and then lured his son Mehdi into Iran by telling him if he voluntarily returned to the country, he will not be held accountable. However, Mehdi was arrested and imprisoned the minute he stepped out of the plane.

Iran’s regime has been devouring its foot soldiers since the beginning of the revolution as those competing over power conspired against the young man, Abolhassan Banisadr, who was close to Ayatollah Khamenei and who had won the presidency following the revolution. He escaped from Iran at night and fled to Paris, and he still fears for his life.

They then arrested their foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who was the voice of the revolution, and he was executed by a firing squad. Many of the revolution’s comrades were placed under house arrest. Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi were most recently put under house arrest because they objected to forgery and abuse of power. All these figures were the regime’s men and not its rivals.

The Iranian opposition expressed doubts over the circumstances leading to Rafsanjani’s death as, despite aging, he carried out his activities until the last day before his death. However, even if his death was natural, what’s certain is that the current command practically killed him years ago when it eliminated him from the scene.

The Iranian opposition expressed doubts over the circumstances leading to Rafsanjani’s death as, despite aging, he carried out his activities until the last day before his death

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Crime and punishment

What did he do to be punished? He did not do anything or take a stance that opposes the regime. His disputes with the command were over the details of politics and this is not a reason for rivalry as it’s the Supreme Leader who gets to decide. They feared Rafsanjani because his legitimacy comes after the supreme guide’s. He was the revolution’s son, one of the bazar’s richest men and one of the oldest regime leaders. All this made him a target for rivals competing over power.

Accusations were made against his family members but he was not personally accused of anything because he is popular in the traditional Iranian street and he was more connected internationally than any of Tehran’s politicians. He established these relations after he became president and supported the “moderate” figures of the regime’s clerics. He also contributed toward bringing Mohammed Khatami to power.

Governance in Iran is not managed through individuals but is a security and religious regime that works collectively, just like the communist regime worked in the past. They operate regardless of posts and hierarchy and this includes the president himself. Only one person is excluded and that is the Supreme Leader as his word is final.

Rafsanjani was seen as a fox in politics even before he became president. He was keen to draw himself as the moderate leader as opposed to the frowning faces we usually see in the state’s hall today. However, this does not mean he was moderate as per global standards.

He called on comrades in government to end the western siege on Iran years before the negotiations over the country’s nuclear program were launched. The negotiations later led to the same result which he had called for. However, his rivals did not back down until the economic sanctions became tough and threatened the regime’s survival.

Tehran’s fox

Tehran’s fox is the one who led the reconciliation process with Gulf countries following the war of Kuwait’s liberation. Back then, he was concerned about talking to Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz – may he rest in peace – who was the crown prince at the time and the head of the Saudi delegation at the Islamic summit in Senegal.

He went to him and reconciled with Saudi Arabia after resolving the problem of the quota of Iranian pilgrims as Saudi Arabia had insisted on cutting the number down from 120,000 to 70,000 in harmony with the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation’s decision and following the sabotage attempted by Iranian pilgrimage missions in Mecca. Tehran accepted the decreased quota and the kingdom agreed to allow Iranian pilgrims to perform the ritual of Baraa, in the area where they reside, but not in the Great Mosque or near it.

Relations relapsed again when the Iranian intelligence carried out the explosions of the Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia and which killed and injured many Americans. Rafsanjani went to Saudi Arabia and spent two weeks there trying to amend relations, and the two countries reconciled. However, relations relapsed for the third time when it was revealed that Tehran was a party in the 2004 Riyadh explosions and which were carried out based on directions by al-Qaeda leaders residing inside Iran.

Tehran did not deny this when it was confronted with evidence and it claimed the operation happened behind its back. The Saudis, like the rest of the region’s countries, no longer trusted the promises of Rafsanjani or of any of Iran’s leaders. Rafsanjani’s death proves to the world Tehran’s inability and its command’s failure to transition from the era of revolution to the moderate and modern state.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on Jan 11, 2017.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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. He tweets @aalrashed

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