Monday, February 28, 2011

Make or Break

Javad Mahzadeh

Hashemi is the most valuable man in the post-election political chess, but is he the one who forces checkmate?
By Javad Mahzadeh

Recent weeks have become so replete with striking political episodes that newspapers can even design a new column to report on daily political events and forecast next day’s developments. At present, the two political camps are overstraining to overcome the other and amid their struggle, Hashemi Rafsanjani is under pressure more than any other figure.

Since Rafsanjani’s historic sermon in Friday prayers, the political fissure has moved into a new foggy phase which adds to concerns. Even Iranian intellectuals can not give a clear picture of the future that awaits the Iranian society. Continued schism among they Iranian society and statesmen defies any sort of prediction. The schism has impelled well-known, rational figures of the Islamic Republic to direct a great portion their efforts towards ridding of the current situation and regaining public trust in order to stand against foreign pressures.

After Rafsanjani’s speech, which received a flood of comments and analyses even continuing up to the present day, the opposite camp has come out with a new card to turn the tables and corner the powerful cleric. Releasing a meaningful letter, a group of Assembly of Experts members have tried to counter his efforts. Their letter has called Rafsanjani to accept the result of elections and abide by Supreme Leader’s ’final word’.

The letter, although not as weighty as Rafsanjani’s sermon in 17th of July, is another step in a project which intends to defame –or better say, oust- Rafsanjani from power circles. But this time his opponent clerics in the assembly have been nominated for the attack.

It seems that both the past and the future of Iran’s politics are in hands of the Assembly of Experts. The letter released by anti-Rafsanjani clerics showed that theoretical and practical schisms in Iran’s political stage have become so deep that even bending down and taking a look seems like a daring experience.
Now we can talk with confidence about the effect of Rafsanjani’s visits to Qom and Mashhad during the past weeks. Fierce criticisms pointed at Hashemi Rafsanjani by some pro-Ahmadinejad clerics, culminating in their latest letter as members of the Assembly of Experts, signifies the impact of Rafsanjani’s negotiations with influential clerics and religious leaders who are also worried about the future of the country and the Islamic establishment.

Up to his Friday prayers speech, the general belief was that with successive political beatings, Rafsanjani would show no overt reaction to the results of tenth presidential election. However, the course of events showed that even Ahmadinejad’s presidency is not the last wish for some power circles, and it was Rafsanjani’s mindset which should be obliterated from political structures. That was when the aged cleric decided to break his silence, come to the front line in support of people and lead their protests.
Of course, Rafsanjani knows better than anyone else that despite bringing relative balance to the political struggle, his appearance in the vanguard has brought him closer and closer to danger. Hashemi is now completely on target, even more than late 1990s during reformists’ anti-Rafsanjani campaigns. But this time his marginalization may be tantamount to the death of a political current, at least for long years.
For some years a group of political analysts believed that Hashemi Rafsanjani is planning a power transition to discharge the Supreme Leader from his powers. However, it seems that the scenario is enacted against no one but Hashemi himself and his position appears shakier than ever.

Joining the group who object election results, Hashemi has tied his future to the future of protestors and now, whatever their destiny, Hashemi has to wait for the same. And let’s not forget that the opposition of the ruling coterie to reformists such as Khatami, Musavi and Karrubi is in fact their opposition to Hashemi’s tradition.
Hashemi is a determining factor whose absence or presence will have significant impacts on Iran’s political structure. While he is under crushing pressure to retract his remarks, he knows well that a moment of compromise and withdrawal equals entering the land of no return.

Without wanting to give an apocalyptic interpretation of the recent developments, we have to say that Iran’s political stage has now turned into a chessboard. Both whites and blacks have valuable men but the result of the game is determined by their most powerful ones. A relative balance is now dominating the game, but game reading power and promptness can determine the ultimate winner.
Hashemi upped the ante with his July 17th speech and visit to Mashhad. His moves were responded with a letter, a check which may receive no response until the day of inauguration. But checkmate seems to be far from close.

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