Rafsanjani slams Ahmadinejad ‘lies’ in Iran

In a newly published interview, one of Iran’s most influential politicians Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, accuses Ahmadinejad of basing his 2009 election campaign on “lies,” saying he had expected Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to react to Ahmadinejad’s brazen allegations during the televised election debates in June 2009.

On Saturday, Rafsanjani’s official website published an interview between the Expediency Council Chairman and the Communications Management monthly. During the interview, conducted almost a year ago, Rafsanjani, a pillar of the establishment since Iran’s 1979 Revolution, said that he had no regret over any of the letters he had written during his long political career.

During the heated 2009 presidential race and in a televised debate with then fellow candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad accused the Rafsanjani family of corruption. “What are [Rafsanjani’s] sons doing in the country? … I have a list of lands confiscated [under other administrations]—40 hectares, 50, 400 hectares. Lawlessness exists among the sons of some of the gentlemen who now support you. How did the son of [former Majlis speaker] Nategh Nouri become a billionaire? How is Nategh himself living? These are your supporters.”

Rafsanjani responded by writing a letter to the country’s leadership Ayatollah Khamenei, referring to Ahmadinejad’s claims as “unfounded and irresponsible” and reminiscent of the actions of “antirevolutionary groups” in the early years of the Islamic Revolution. He accused Ahmadinejad of having targeted the very “achievements” of the Islamic establishment.

During the interview which took place a year after the rigged 2009 election, Rafsanjani stated: “I saw that a very hideous act been carried out. Everyone knew that I was not backing any of the other candidates … Everybody was aware of the fact that my approach was not compatible with this [the government’s] manner of managing society. Unfortunately, in the interview, Mr Ahmadinejad said things that were untrue. What was more regretful was that he had turned those lies into the base of his campaigning which he took advantage of during his [election] rallies.”

“My expectation and the expectation of those who cared about the [political] system, was that the leader would react,” he added. “Because it wasn’t just about me. In that interview, you saw a sort of enmity with the clergy that was putting the achievements of the revolution up for sale under the pretext of opposition to [a few] individuals while portraying the clergy as lacking the competence to manage society. During the anniversary of Imam [Khomeini’s] passing at his shrine, I told him [Ahmadinejad] that his comments were erroneous and I prefer that he correct himself, otherwise, I would have to provide explanations [for the public]. I waited a number of days and saw no response. I then wrote a letter, because those remarks [during the presidential debate] had to be responded to. [Some] ask why I wrote the letter before the election. Such a question is fallacious; did he have any motive other than the election for erecting those false arguments?

“I prepared the letter and sent it to the leader on Tuesday afternoon … Because the newspapers could publish it on Wednesday, but if I had sent it on Wednesday; no one could publish it on Thursday as it was the deadline for campaigning. I wanted to answer those comments [made by the president] … I saw the people’s enthusiasm and fervour [in the days leading up to the election]. I was also aware of what those in charge of holding the election had planned.” [1]

Rafsanjani, who until very recently was the Chairman of the Assembly of Experts—the body charged with electing, monitoring, and removing the leader—continued: “In the time left, I sent the letter to the Supreme Leader, but unfortunately, they had not handed over the letter to him in the remaining two hours, because I had not received any reply. I published [the letter] shortly before I went to see him.”

“When I went there, he said, ‘I was reading your letter on the computer,’ which means that even after it had been made public, they had still not given him the original letter,” he explained. “When I asked him what his opinion was, he said, ‘I have no remark about the content, but I have one point. Mr Ahmadinejad did not accuse you of corruption, but he spoke about your children.’ I replied, ‘the atmosphere was such that even though there was no mention of my name, everything was directed at me’.”

“He [Khamenei] said, ‘I really have no remark about the letter. But if I were you, I’d publish it after the election.’ I said ‘it was by God’s will that you did not see it before its publication, because if you had read it and had told me [not to publish it], I would not have done so, and this would not have been appropriate.’”

“It is my right to respond [to Ahmadinejad] and I did so. He [Khamenei] did not object to my logic either,” he said.

When asked whether the letter had had a negative impact on the relationship between the two, Rafsanjani replied, “No. He clearly stated he had no remarks about the letter’s content. In that same meeting, he said, ‘you rightfully expect me to react. I did not see fit to answer prior to the election, because it would impact the people’s turnout. But I shall respond after the election.’ He even said that he had told Mr Ahmadinejad he had made unjust comments and that [he] would respond [to the letter].”

“He really never complained to me about the letter. Because our relationship is such that he would tell me even if he a grievance … our 60-year collaboration is such that we have are very frank with each other.”

In the end, Rafsanjani said that it was natural that some elements inside the political establishment longed for a standoff between the two veteran politicians. “These [issues] are natural in politics. One group enters the political game and makes many such claims, but reality always imposes itself on the political possibilities, and sooner or later, everything will be revealed.”

It should be noted that the publication of Rafsanjani’s letter comes amidst growing rifts within Iran’s conservative factions over Khamenei’s decision to reinstate the intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi after he was forced by Ahmadinejad to resign on 17 April.

Quoting an Iranian MP, the reformist Shargh daily reported on Saturday that more than 216 conservatives out of the parliament’s 290 MPs had written a letter to Ahmadinejad after an "extraordinary" meeting on Thursday, urging him to accept the reinstatement of Moslehi and end his eight-day boycott and absence from the public light since April 22.


[1] The election itself was held on Friday 12 June 2009.

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