Iran’s most watched man has finally made his move. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and the country’s most skilled political operator, had been sending mixed signals since the contentious June election, one day appearing sympathetic with the opposition and the next declaring his loyalty to the regime. Throughout this long political dance, both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the opposition “green movement” appreciated that securing the allegiance of Rafsanjani, a key player in Iranian politics since the Islamic Revolution, would represent a significant victory.
Now, Rafsanjani appears to have decided to place his bets with Khamenei. And it turns out that Rafsanjani’s cultivated reputation for independence might be exactly what the supreme leader needs right now.
Since the June 12 presidential election, the only constant during Rafsanjani’s long period of fence-sitting was his display of contempt for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cadre of hard-liners. The rift between the two men goes back many years. Rafsanjani lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential race, a contest Rafsanjani implied was rigged by the hard-liners. The tension only intensified during the 2009 presidential election, when Ahmadinejad, in a nationally televised debate, accused his rival Mir Hossein Mousavi of receiving support from corrupt officials, such as Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani then sent an unprecedented letter to Khamenei, complaining about Ahmadinejad’s “li… >>>