Tag Archives: Rafsanjani

Panel Video:The Battle for the Presidency – #Iran 2013 presidential elections

26 May

Video of my recent panel participation at the Wilson Center discussing the upcoming elections in Iran, especially the disqualification of Rafsanjani and the challenges which the supreme leader faces. Thanks to Haleh Esfandiari for the invitation and her expert opinion and Barbara Slavin and Ali Vaez for their expertise and informed analysis.


Iran Elections: Where an Old KIA Beats a Mercedes-Benz

22 May

Its official: Rafsanjani and Meshai are disqualified as candidates for the upcoming Iranian elections.

From now until election day, the supreme leader could best be described as the head of a panel of the talent show.


Ahmadinejad cancels his third trip – Iran 2013 presidential elections

21 May

Ahmadinejad has just cancelled his third trip in a week (2 domestic and 1 foreign). Something must be going on. 

In my opinion the most probable cause is lobbying.

Its quite possible that he has realized that his colleague Meshai may not be approved by the Guardian Council to run for the upcoming elections. Ahmadinejad could be staying back to help him by lobbying the Office of the Supreme Leader.

To be honest I can’t think of another reason why he would cancel 3 trips in a week. Its very unlike him.

He will have to be careful though. Ahmadinejad can’t push people around like the old days. And he can’t threaten people by saying that he will reveal secrets about them. Well thats not exactly correct. He could, but he risks house arrest.

Rafsanjani will also have to be careful.

He also risks house arrest if he is suspected of fermenting unrest.

There are already numerous people within the regime who accuse Rafsanjani of fermenting the 2009 demonstrations. One reason is a statement made by his wife in 2009. After casting her vote in the 2009 elections, Efat Marashi (aka Mrs Rafsanjani) stated (on camera) that “the youth should pour on to the streets if there are cheating in the elections”.

There are many who are just waiting to settles scores with Rafsanjani. Ayatollah Khamenei just has to give them the word. If there are disturbances in Iran again and Rafsanjani is accused of being behind them, this time I believe that he might just do that.

Don’t bet on a Rafsanjani victory – Iran 2013 Presidential Elections

19 May

If you are a betting person, do not bet on a Rafsanjani victory. My article explains why


Debate: Presidential elections in Iran: Crackdowns and power struggles

16 May

A fascinating discussion about Iran’s upcoming presidential elections, hosted by London’s Front line club.  

The panel:

Mehri Honarbin-Holliday is senior research fellow at Canterbury Christ Church University and fellow at the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS. She is the author of Becoming Visible in Iran: Women in Contemporary Iranian Society and Masculinities in Urban Iran.

Kelly Golnoush Niknejad is founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning Tehran Bureau, which is hosted by the Guardian. She is also the inaugural recipient of the Innovator Award from Columbia Journalism School for “inspiring, creating, developing, or implementing new ideas that further the cause of journalism”.

Kasra Naji, special correspondent for BBC Persian TV and author of Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran’s Radical Leader.

Chaired by:

Azadeh Moaveni, a former Middle East correspondent for Time magazine who has reported on Iran since 1999. She is the author of Lipstick Jihad, Honeymoon in Tehran, and co-author, with Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, of Iran Awakening.

Iran Elections 2013 – Is Ayatollah Khamenei in Charge?

13 May

Many of us in the Iran analysis world are still trying to work out why is it that Esfandiyar Rahim Meshai and Rafsanjani registered for the elections when we know that Iran’s most powerful man Ayatollah Khamenei looks unfavorably upon them both.

Professor Gary Sick of Columbia University offers us his opinion about the possible reasons as part of this very interesting article:

“At this point, the most likely interpretation is that each of the candidates was in it for himself, and the Supreme Leader had very little to say about it.”

He goes on to say:

“The notion that the Supreme Leader is far less supreme than his clique would pretend is neither new nor surprising. But this apparent evidence that he is not only lacking in political clout but is in fact essentially irrelevant to the decision-making process is something new — especially if this plethora of candidates risks another train wreck of the magnitude of 2009.”

I take the opposite view to Gary’s.

I believe that Khamenei is still very much in charge and that both Meshai and Rafsanjani ran after receiving clearance from him.

In the case of Rafsanjani, the permission seems to have come close to the deadline for registration of candidates on Sunday. According to Fatemeh Rafsanjani (Ali Akbar Rafsanjani’s daughter):

“My father’s telephone rang at 17:15. He had a relatively short conversation. After that he came out of the room and said: Bism’allah, lets go”.

Fatemeh Rafsanjani refuses to say who the caller was. But its not difficult to guess. Rafsanjani had stated before that he would participate after hearing the supreme leader’s response. With 45 to go before the deadline, he received one phone call after which he decided to go ahead and register. That phone call could only have come from the supreme leader’s representatives, or himself.

Why allow them to run?

I believe that the supreme leader is carrying out some prudent risk management. Having stability before elections is key. The cost of telling Meshai and Rafsanjani not to run and all the ensuing distractions and noise which it would have created would have been unnecessary and avoidable. So why pay?

Furthermore, by allowing Meshai and Rafsanjani to run, that way the elections at least look inclusive of all factions. This would bring:

  1. stability before the elections.
  2. genuine voters to the ballot box
  3.  would unite the divided the conservatives as many are both against Rafsanjani and Meshai. It took one day after Rafsanjani’s registration for Velayati to attack him by saying that Rafsanjani had abandoned the leader during the disturbances of 2009. Soon after Meshai’s registration there were fist fights between his supporters and supporters of other conservative candidates at the registration office.

In the case of Rafsanjani participating, it would have the added advantage that his presence would weaken Meshai. I believe that Khamenei sees the latter as even more destabilizing than Rafsanjani. By bringing Rafsanjani, Meshai’s nationalistic rhetoric and his efforts to present himself as a moderate candidate would take a hit. Rafsanjani’s presence could definitely erode some of Meshai’s support among Iran’s urban population.

When it comes to his impact on Iranian politics and the elections process, it is my firm belief that Ayatollah Khamenei is firmly in charge, with the help of the IRGC.

Which is why for now I strongly believe that Saeed Jalili is the man to watch.

The rest make up parts of the opening act.

Iran 2013 Presidential Elections – Forget Rafsanjani and Meshai, Think Jalili

12 May

Saeed Jalili – The black mark on his forehead is self made, by pressing the head hard on the stone of Karbala while praying. Its supposedly a sign of piety and devotion.

Forget Rafsanjani, forget Meshai. There is very little chance that either would be picked for the post of presidency.

At best they’ll be qualified to run for the elections by the Guardian Council. But beyond that, they don’t stand much of a chance. Both men have made far too many enemies with far too many powerful people such as Ayatollah Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards.

If you are a betting person, for now, I’d say here are the odds for the likeliest candidate to be selected for the post of president in Iran.

The results below are based on the criteria which I believe the supreme leader is most likely to use to pick the next president (in consultation with other bodies inside the regime. However Khamenei will have the last word)

Most likely – current chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili

Second most likely – former parliament speaker Gholam Ali Hadad Adel

Third most likely – former foreign minister Velayati

Fourth most likely – current mayor  of Tehran Qalibaf

Iranian politics is very convoluted and fluid. Things change easily and quickly. So lets revise this list in a week and see what has changed.

Whats interesting is that hardly anyone noticed that the speaker of the Majles Ali Larijani decided not to run for elections – again.