By Arab News
By Ali Bluwi
During a conference on the Gulf and the World held recently in Riyadh, I had an interesting discussion with Arnold Luethold, a friend with a very calm personality. The main theme in our discussion was Hashemi Rafsanjani and whether Iran needs such a dynamic politician. Rafsanjani is known for his realistic and rational policies in defending Iranian interests. He succeeded in establishing good relations with the Gulf countries in the past. The highlight of these relations was evident in a strategic meeting between Tehran and Riyadh.
All along Rafsanjani was different from Mohammad Khatami who sought to make Islamic culture as a tool for the Iranian presence. He was also different from other zealous clergymen who were biased toward the Persian nationality at the expense of other nationalities and who employed the religious dimension to realize their interests.
Arnold Luethold argues that Rafsanjani was the architect of the Islamic state in Iran. His project was realistic; yet it was hijacked by clergymen, particularly Khamenei and the Republican Guard. For this reason, his personality is a subject for continuous criticism and accusations. Once he was accused of having special relations with the Bazaar. His opponents accused him of stealing the revenue of Iranian Oil Company.
When he refused to acknowledge the electoral victory of Ahmadinejad, he was stripped of his post and banned from giving ceremonies. Only recently, a court gave his daughter a six-month suspended prison sentence for getting involved in anti-regime media activities. His daughter Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani is a journalist and women rights activist.
On the other hand, many fear his political comeback as he might fill in for the Supreme Leader’s position amid news of sickness of Khamenei with cancer. When Rafsanjani refused to attack the opposition leaders (Mir-Hussein Mousavi and Iranian Reformist Mehdi Karoubi), his daughter was sentenced in order to ban her from any political activity for five years. It is known that she was preparing to run for next presidential elections.
Last week, Rafsanjani’s website was banned. The accusation this time is that his website contains information that breached the law. The irony is that Rafsanjani is not a layman to ignore the law but a man who is presiding over State Expediency Council, a body that can impeach the supreme leader. Yet, the reason for banning his website was that it contained his last Friday ceremony in which he assailed the situation inside Iran.
Undoubtedly, Rafsanjani is a key personality in Iran with a big political clout. He also enjoys huge respect outside Iran. Yet, his opponents inside Iran are enraged by his anti- Velayat-e Faqih stand. He is against idolizing the supreme leader as well. In Friday’s ceremony, he emphasized that people’s satisfaction and confidence are the source of legitimacy and submission should be only to the will of people. He argued for limiting the power of the Supreme Leader and he made it clear that the idea of the “absent imam” is nothing but a myth.
Seen in this way, it is crystal clear that the harassment against Rafsanjani and his daughter is a reaction of the Iranian authority’s fear of his impact on people. Ironically, it was Rafsanjani who supported Khamenei for the Supreme Leader position. According to Ali Nouri Zadeh, it was Rafsanjani who made Khamenei. Khamenei understands well the strength of Rafsanjani. And yet he stabbed him in the back and considered him as a fierce enemy.
Today, Iran is witnessing cultural, social and economic transformations. Some Western think tank researchers do not rule out dividing Iran as one of the future scenarios. Reality in Iran only reinforces this trend. Poverty, unemployment, inflation, the existence of children with unknown parents, clergymen’s control of economic resources, the distance between the new generation and the revolution and its ideology, theocracy, and unnecessary spending of billions of US dollars abroad are indicators of this new reality.
I was listening to a dialogue with Shaikh Abdelhamid, a Sunni preacher in Iran. His talk was full of sad stories. He referred to sectarian and ethnic splitting up within Iran. Save for the Jews, all other non-Persians are seen by the regime as a mere agent to the outside forces. They are not allowed to set up any event — even a wedding party- without an official permit. It also looks down at almost 60 percent of the religions and national components of Iran.
Iranian leaders needs to understand that their efforts to get involved in other affairs (such as supporting organizations) or get the nuclear weapon is naïve. This will not secure Iran a respected status at the regional and international levels. The bases of power are science and progress rather than adventures. Take India for instance. Notwithstanding the ethnic and religious diversity in India, Indians feel that they have one home in a proper functioning democracy. Also, India enjoys great respect at the international stage. In brief, it is about time we heard a rational civil voice from Iran other than more threats.