Friday, July 17, 2009

Rafsanjani Calls for Compromise; Security Forces Answer With Violence

Security forces attacked the crowd at Friday prayers in the regime's rapid response to Rafsanjani's call for compromise.

Leading Friday prayers, Rafsanjani adopted a conciliatory tone of compromise and national unity. He did not, in the Iranian media’s English-language summaries, come across as a visionary, but he at least sounded like a leader, distancing himself from the arrogant tone of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and a long list of security and military officials.

Rafsanjani left no doubt that his call for compromise was a warning to the regime, noting, according to a rapid translation by a blogger, that, “The guardian council, the expediency council, everyone gets their legitimacy from the vote of the people.”

The existence of two distinct camps in Iranian politics was clear from the media.

IRIB identified Rafsanjani merely as Friday prayer leader and focused on his call on all to obey the law – which could be read as criticism of protestors or of the regime for its alleged electoral corruption and violent post-election crackdown and alleged torture of protestors.

Press TV highlighted the fact that Rafsanjani “heads both the top political arbitration body called the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, the top clerical body which chooses and supervises the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.” Press TV quoted Rafsanjani stating:

Our key issue is to regain the trust which the people had and now to some extent is shattered.

The article also quoted Rafsanjani saying that “the Islamic Republic is not a ceremonial term. Should one of the two be tarnished, we will no longer have the Revolution."

Driving home the point that the Islamic Republic rests on the two pillars of Islamic rule and electoral legitimization of that rule, the article noted:

Recalling the perspectives of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Revolution, on democracy, Rafsanjani urged the authorities to cherish the "the people's vote and opinion" as the most important aspect of the establishment.

It has become clear since the election that many in the Iranian elite would disagree with this assessment of the balance between the Islamic pillar and the democratic pillar.

ILNA featured his remark that “we are all members of a family,” a statement in stark contrast to the recent comment by Sayyed Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of Iran's Joint Armed Forces, that his troops were ready to fight to the death against demonstrators. Rafsanjani’s full comment clearly pointed the finger of blame:

We have to allow for an atmosphere that is calm and free There is no need for force, if military, security and intelligence forces allow. We are all part of one family.

Unfortunately, the regime wasted no time giving its response, implicitly slapping Ayatollah and ex-President Rafsanjani down by tear gasing and allegedly knifing post-speech demonstrators* from the enormous crowd that was listening to his speech on loudspeakers. One family no longer.

* See Demosthenes for a report with an eloquent discussion of what political legitimacy means.

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