A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rafsanjani Makes His Move?

Yesterday Ayatollah ‘Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani finally spoke after 16 days of public silence. As I noted recently, Rafsanjani may be the key to what happens next. His comments that the results are "a tangled mess, perpetrated by suspicious sources whose objectives are to create differences and separations between the people and the system and eroding the trust of the people in the Islamic system," are opaque enough since you could read them as criticizing either side or even both, but it's clear he's calling for some sort of reconciliation.

What's perhaps worth remarking is the fact that Rafsanjani chose to speak on a particular revolutionary anniversary known as Hafte Tir (the seventh of Iranian month Tir), the date in 1981 when Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, head of the Judiciary and head of the Islamic Republic Party, and in the system at the time essentially the second most powerful cleric after Khomeini, along with a large number of other party officials, were killed in a bombing of party headquarters. It's one of the great landmarks of revolutionary symbolism, and Martyr Beheshti is a major figure in the revolutionary pantheon, so Rafsanjani, by choosing his audience (family members of those killed) is reminding everyone that he was an intimate of Khomeini and the real leaders of the revolution back when Ahmadinejad was a callow revolutionary youth. He does know how to choose his audience, but whether he has played his hand too late is hard to determine.

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