Global Migration & Politics
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The death of former Iranian President Rafsanjanis is inconvenient

When the former president of Iran (1989-1997) Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died this week, many observers of Iran and the region asked the question of what Rafsanjani’s death would have of significance for the country and its political future. We analyze Iranian politics and the reformer Rafsanjani’s significance.

The death of the former president is quite inconvenient only four months before the forthcoming presidential election in Iran. And although Rafsanjani himself would not be elected, his role and importance in the political landscape for almost 40 years were so significant that connoisseurs of Iran fear that his death would destroy the forthcoming election.

But who was this man who started out as revolutionary Islamist and ended up caring for more freedom of expression and more rights to women?

West’s darling with the turban on the slope

Rafsanjani is often awarded the role of the one who convinced Ayatollah Khomeini (political and spiritual leader of the Iranian Revolution) to accept UN Security Council Resolution 598 and thus the man who stopped the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.

He also played an active role in the release of US hostages in Tehran and was thus involved in Irangate </ em>, or Iran-Contra affair involving the release of US hostages against US acquisition of weapons. The money from this weapon sale went to fund the contra in Nicaragua. A quite apparent affair that took place from 1985 to 1987, and as it is today, can make even the most hardcore political dogs something clumsy about the twist.

He was seen in the West as an advocate of reforms. One who tried to promote a more pragmatic interpretation of Islam and the Iranian Revolution of 1979, including the thinking of Ayatollah Khomeini, which formed the basis of the Islamic revolution in the country. He was among other things responsible for a peaceful outcome in yet another crisis, when a American TWA plane was hijacked by the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.

A reform-oriented politician who pleaded for moderation and a more open policy towards the country’s Arab neighbors and the West. But the West’s picture of Rafsanjani is, at worst, somewhat misleading and, at best, a not very adequate portrait of the man who made Iran outward and dominated the political scene for almost 40 years

Although he managed to persuade Ayatollah Khomeini to accept the UN Security Council resolution and thus end the war with Iraq in 1988, it was the same man who ordered the execution of the 30,000 political prisoners . In his early years, he was notorious to crack down on political opponents, including not least students. He has been involved in the shooting of a AMIA flight in Buenos Aires in 1984 and responsible for executing multiple killings political opponents over the years.

He refused to lift the fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie and his work “The Satanic Verses”, just as he was responsible for the launch of the Iranian nuclear program.

Saudi Arabia’s reaction to Rafsanjanis death
The Arab neighbors have – perhaps not surprisingly – reacted to Rafsanjani’s death with pronounced low-density. Preserved, the man was not president at the time of his death. But he has played a decisive role in the design of the Middle East, and especially in Iran’s relationship with its Arab neighbors. It’s all else a performance, but requires a minimum of response – if not respect.

The Saudi news media had on the day of Rafsanjan’s death a brief brief on eight lines describing the former Iranian president, his role during the Iranian Revolution, and that he had now died. In short.

More interesting and juicy, it became three days later, where Iran was compared to Nazi Germany and Rafsanjani with Goering.

It is hardly surprising that Iran’s archbishop number 1, Saudi Arabia, feels the urge to come up with such a sword a few days after the man’s death.

In other words, it’s not an innocent teddy bear with the turban on the verge of saving the world, providing peace and releasing hostages. President Rafsanjani contained more shades than that of

The eternal struggle of power between the two countries about the ideological and religious control over the region remains the same, unlike Rafsanjani’s death. There will be no further deterioration of the already strained relationship between Riyadh and Tehran at present. Both countries have their hands full of these days with the upcoming US President Donald Trump, and what his choices might cause to the countries each.

A political vacuum after Rafsanjani

The problem with Rafsanjanis death is the political vacuum he leaves. There is no obvious successor to the role he has taken in recent years as the reformist and pragmatic politician. Several observers of Iran fear that current president Hassan Rouhani will be weaker in the forthcoming election without Rafsanjanis support. But it is not necessarily a correct observation.

In theory, Tomorrow can benefit President Rouhani. The voters can decide to vote for Rouhani in a kind of sympathy for deceased Rafsanjani and his pragmatic line.

There is no competitor as such to Rouhani as “moderate” leader in the political scene. There are only currently The Green Movement whose leaders are in house arrest . The alternative is hardliners who see a chance to profile themselves further in the wake of Rafsanjanis death. However, it is doubtful whether it will fall in good soil with the voters so shortly after Rafsanjanis death.

The question is therefore whether or not Rafsanjani’s death is an opportunity for Rouhani to profile himself more strongly; to get out and away from Rafsanjani’s protective wings. So he no longer appears as Rafsanjanis protege as such, but as a new Rafsanjani. An Rafsanjani 2.0 so to speak?

In the wake of Rafsanjani’s death, most media have been searching for judgments about the forthcoming elections in Iran; about the risk of riots and protests, about what loss his death leads to reforming groups in the country. The question is whether these assumptions are not easily scrambled and just serve to whip up an atmosphere.

You should rather make the point that any protests and demonstrations will be inevitable in the forthcoming elections. It is certainly not an unknown phenomenon for the Iranians with protests and demonstrations in connection with their presidential election. This will probably happen again to the next choice. Independent of Rafsanjanis death. In other words, the rumors of the significance of his death seem to be excessively exaggerated.

What will Rafsanjani’s political remarks be?

You can roughly split Rafsanjani’s political life into three phases. He was one of the basic figures of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and close friend of Ayatollah Khomeini. Next, he served as the de facto commander in chief during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, and then as president from 1989-1997. The third and last phase of his political life was the last 10 years when he was on a sidewalk, yet played a particularly politically active role in the background.

Rafjanjani’s postmark is interesting: a man who began his life as a young revolutionary Islamist, ended up as an elder, scholar, who pleaded for more freedom of speech and better conditions for the press, more rights for women and a more pragmatic interpretation of Islam in the political space.

It is quite clear that in 2005 he lost the presidential election to the relatively unknown mayor of Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A sign of the pronounced reluctance against Rafsanjani, which at the time was regarded as part of the elite, and as a good businessman who managed to earn his own business interests in addition to his political work. Forbes magazine at one time considered Rafsanjani’s business empire to be worth about $ 1 billion .

It was, in other words, a non-odd man who was able to see good business opportunities, while fitting the pitch as the country’s president. The combination does not always give bonus points to the voters.

When he again tried to quit in 2013, he was not approved as eligible for presidential election by the Guardian Council. Instead, he chose to focus his efforts to support the moderate Hassan Rouhani. His stated support for Rouhani is considered to be crucial for the latter’s election victory.

However, Rafsanjani’s commemoration is interesting: a man who began his life as a young revolutionary Islamist, ended up as an elder scholar, who pleaded for more freedom of expression and better conditions for the press, more rights for women and a more pragmatic interpretation of Islam in the political space. A man who managed to navigate through a particularly mined political landscape and managed to maintain a powerful position for 40 years. Not all politicians are cropped.

At Rafsanjani’s funeral ceremony, around two million Iranians participated. Such an impressive attendance should be taken seriously by the authorities – as a criticism of the seated government. But first and foremost, the invitation can be seen as an expression of sympathy for a man who not only shaped his contemporaries, but to the same extent was ultimately even formed by the very moment. It may be that the art is for a good politician.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died on January 8, 82 years.

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