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Thursday
Dec272012

Iran Analysis: Rafsanjani Strikes Back (and Why the Supreme Leader is Allowing It)

It has been many months since former President Hashemi Rafsanjani grabbed the political headlines, but --- with the unwitting help of a pro-Ahmadinejad MP --- he and his family did so on Wednesday.

A nine-page document defending Rafsanjani and his children, including detained son Mehdi Hashemi and imprisoned daughter Faezeh Hashemi, was read on the floor of Parliament. The Rafsanjani family also filed a lawsuit in the Special Clerical Court against the MP, Hamid Rasaei, over his remarks last week.

Rasaei had said that Mehdi Hashemi, freed on bail last week after a September arrest on charges of financial and electoral fraud, was a "corrupt monster" who received special treatment because of the influence of his "octopus family".

So is this the re-emergence of Rafsanjani as a leading political force? Not quite.

Instead, the former President has been given some space because of the regime's aversion to Rasaei's remarks, called "criminal" by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar.

Rasaei is not only attacking Rafsanjani, he is attacking important elements of the system --- in this case, the judiciary. In their coverage of yesterday's developments, State media featured remarks of MPs such as:

It is for the judiciary to decide whether Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani’s children have done anything against the law and it is too early to say the judiciary has been lenient with them because their father is a well-known politician.

The regime's concern is that the wider context of Rasaei's attack --- the ongoing fight between President Ahmadinejad's supporters and the Rafsanjani camp --- will fuel political conflict and unsettle the system, as the economy moves from problem to crisis and Presidential elections near.

For four years --- ever since Hashemi Rafsanjani gave his last Tehran Friday Prayer in July 2009, in which he questioned the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad's re-election and challenged the Supreme Leader by calling for the release of political prisoners --- Ayatollah Khamenei has been balancing his former and current Presidents.

And he is not going to stop now.

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