Spin time: Rafsanjani’s speech


Ari Siletz
by Ari Siletz

Commentator spin after a big political speech is customary. So here’s an unbiased interpretation of some paraphrased Rafsanjani statements. Any disagreement with the interpretation below is a sign of bias. This inclewds objections to mis-spellings.

  1. “Salaam O aleikom. Kheili Motshakker az shoma.”

Translation: The only reason I am here is because Ayatollah Khamenei is now a lame duck Supreme Leader. I am effectivley the new Supreme Leader. This is because the lame duck Supreme Leader has failed to maintain unity in this republic, and people need me to clean up his mess.

  1. Don’t ever think of the people as being weak.”

Translation: Because Allah will help the people kick your ass.

  1. Why would the Koran swear to the Pen? What is so sacred about the mere pen?”

Translation: Our written constitution is sacred; follow the law, because Allah’s Evin is a lot worse than the earthly one. By the way, it is perfectly Islamic to go after the violators of our constitutionally given rights and box their ears fullest extent of the law.

  1. “You can’t put ignorant people at the same level as knowledgeable people.” Translation: An ignorant Baseej beating a university student isn’t what Islam intended.

  1. “The Prophet made sure no person’s rights were violated in his domain.” Translation: Rulers who conspire to cheat in elections are not following the path of the Islam.

  1. “Hours before his death, the Prophet came to the pulpit and asked people to speak up if he had wronged anyone, so he could address the injustice.”

Translation: Khamenei, you are old and sick; ‘fess up before it is too late.

  1. “The Prophet created unity.”

Translation:Unity does not spontaneously appear; it takes a wise leader to bring it about. Khamenei, you are a miserable failure.

  1. “The Prophet dug trenches with Salman. [the Persian].”

Translation: Islam is not a foreign religion to Iran, as revolutionary Iranians had a part in bringing it about.

  1. “Hundreds of thousands have died to make this strong tree [Islam]. Some during the Iraq war.

Translation: Baseej, there were others before you who gave their lives for Islam, so don’t hog the credit. Yet we will be lenient with your crimes because you helped defend the country.

  1. “Imam Mosusa Kazem, was unjustly imprisoned, and later killed.”

Translation: Baseej, you will be held accountable for the Iranian Shiites you have jailed and killed [commenter's note: Hard to to tell if Baseej victims belonging to minority religions are also covered]

  1. “It is not in China’s interest to persecute her Muslim population. They know there are a billion and a half Muslims in the world.”

Translation: I’ve taken it upon myself to defend the Islamic world. We don’t need Ahmadinejad and his one-issue hypocritical defense of the Palestinians.

  1. “Whatever the election results may have been.” Translation: I hereby confirm that Ahmadinejad did NOT win the election.
  2. “Whenever we as young Imam Khomeini followers asked how to start the revolution, he would say your mission is to get people to come around to my way of thinking.”

Translation: Prostesters, continue to gather support for yourselves Get more people involved; it really works. I should know.

  1. “If people are dissatisfied, the government can’t rule.”

Translation: We have a defunct administration right now. Let's get rid of it.

  1. The Prophet told Ali, if the majority follow you, take care of them. If they don’t, let them do what they want. I did the research myself.”

Translation: As a Supreme Leader and an Islamic scholar I am inclined to build a Shiite case for democracy [Religious minorities probably excluded].

  1. “Everything depends on the vote of the people.”

Translation: I said, “vote” of the people, not “will” of the people. So I’m talking about this last election, even though I’m pretending to be telling an old story about Ali.

  1. “We rushed to write a constitution because we knew we had the backing of the people.”

Translation: The constitution is shaky, particularly now that we’re not sure of the backing of the people. I’m willing to consider amending it.

  1. “This order is both Islamic and a republic. One without the other is not possible.”

Translation: IRGC, don’t even think about a military dictatorship. Your name will sit in Iranian history next to the MKO, and all your Iraq War credits would go down the drain.

  1. The Gaurdian Council squandered the time given to regain the trust of the people in the government.”

Translation: Khamenei manages an incompetent team, himself the biggest goof up. This is why I’m the new Supreme Leader.

20. “Free the prisoners.” No Translation necessary; this is exactly what Rafsanjani said.

  1. Give freedom to the press within the law. No Translation necessary; this is exactly what Rafsanjani said.

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more from Ari Siletz
Ari Siletz

You found him, Anahid

by Ari Siletz on

 Thanks for the great suggestion for a metaphor, I can't think of an image more fitting.

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Ari, for the Soccer video

by Anahid Hojjati on

Hi Ari, in #2 video, is Khamenei the defender in black uniform that rather than guiding the ball away, shoots the ball into his own team's post?

Ari Siletz

Thanks Anahid

by Ari Siletz on

The credit for points #22 and beyond go to Javad Yassari who has kindly continued the enumeration. Great soccer analogy about Khamenei scoring on his own team. Here are 5 brief action scenes from team Khamenei. See if you can spot him in #2.

Anahid Hojjati

Dear Ari, I like your article

by Anahid Hojjati on

Dear Ari, your point by point analysis of Rafsanjani's speech confirms what I was reading into the speech.   On Friday 7/17,I wrote a blog about the fact that we might be close to action by Assembly of Experts regarding removal of supreme leader. 


This is what you referred to in your #24 point where you wrote: "24.  "Two, we must act in a way that the trust of the people is restored. Of course this cannot be achieved in one day. This is a relatively long process.": ...and it entails Khamenei's removal from his position...soon. "

To me, this is almost like "dodota chaharta" now.  Rafsnjani was trying to get support from Assembly of Experts .  He was not totally successful until Khamenei took sides and invited violence against greens.  After that, supreme leader lost its footing in society and now he is on his way out.  So Khamenei was like a defender in a soccer team that was able to post a goal but the goal he posted was not against opposing team (Mousavi, Khatami, Rafsanjani, etc) but Khamenei's goal was against his own team which includes AN.

Ari Siletz

Thanks Monda

by Ari Siletz on

Another thing Rafsanjani need not say because it should be understood is that if the movement wants something from him, then we should be willing to give him some of the things he wants. One misunderstanding that undermines our ability to form lasting coalitions is that Iranians tend to hold politics to the morality of the family. Whereas realistically the political sense of fair-play is closer to what we find in the market. You give me this, in return for that. Quite fair actually, in that context.

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

Rafsanjani translated his Arabic quote into Farsi as, "If  people don't come to you in the necessary numbers...if they fight disagree (among themselves?)...let them do whatever they want...they know for themselves. And God will find you a way to reach your goal" The Arabic seems to say, "then let them." Here's the reference (7:30 in the clip).

Yes, Nico has done an amazing job bringing us news of Iran, demonstrating the versatility of the new citizien media. By the way since you are a Hufpost reader, did you see Ariana's defense of Nico's new style of journalism against Roger Cohen's remarks on bearing witness?



This is brilliant!

by Monda on

Thank you Ari! I thought it was me who couldn't hear any clear guidelines out of this speech! 


My quote came from Nico

by Shepesh on

My quote came from Nico Pitney's excellent website on updates for Iran:


9:32 AM ET -- Rafsanjani's most important line? Via email, Portland State University professor R. Kevin Hill writes:

There was subtext and not-so-sub-subtext in several of Rafsanjani's remarks, based on the transcript of a live-blogger (caveats about accuracy, accuracy of translation, etc.) excerpt of which follows. If this is accurate, and I'm reading the oblique sermon style correctly, he's articulating a principle of popular sovereignty and calling on the government to resign. I've highlighted the crucial remark:

"The Imam [Khomeini] would always quote the Prophet [Muhammad] who would say to Ali [Muhammad's successor]: leave the people if they do not want you.

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

You make an extremely critical point: every voice counts, every action counts.

You never know , maybe it will be your voice or action that becomes the straw that broke the Regime's back.  

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

1. I sent out word to see if anyone can find the quote you mention from Rafsanjani. Nothing so far. Meanwhile, you may already know that article 111 of Iran's constitution makes a statement that could be misunderstood as the Rafsanjani interpretation you mention:

In the event of the death, or resignation or dismissal of the Leader, the experts shall take steps within the shortest possible time for the appointment of the new Leader. Until the appointment of the new Leader, a council consisting of the President, head of the judiciary power, and a religious men from the Guardian Council, upon the decision of the Nation's Exigency Council, shall temporarily take over all the duties of the Leader.

2. Good to know the Sepah may be fractured in terms of its opposition to reform. 

3.Thanks for the Rezai link.



by Shepesh on


Shazde Asdola Mirza

Very funny, very witty, and very timely analysis: thanks a lot!

by Shazde Asdola Mirza on

Every voice counts! Every action counts!


Good Job

by darius on

I don't think he meant to say all those beause he really beleived people have right to do and say what they have done.

He struggled for one last time to show he is still a force in IRI.,Ahmadinejad long before election knew, he will not win.Fabricating

millions of votes to put him at 62% needed more than month and thousnads  loyal force to get it done.When he was doing that,

All the old guard were busy poketing money and  minding their business.

Expidiency council and all other exlusive shura and clubs are to silence the old guard and earning some  good money for them and their kids to prosper and quietly vanish by the force of  nature or simply retire.

I saw at no time any determination from his voice to convey this message,Ahmadinejad and you all thugs,we will punish you for what you have   done.

If Rafsanjani and others ould do  something to Ahmadinejad,they had done it by now there was no need to do it on Friday Prayer.

Time for all those old guard to com eout strong, face him fiercely and

then vanish.

This movement soon or late will come to power and already is generating its future leader.


Ari Siletz

khaleh Mosheh

by Ari Siletz on

Good question regarding spin. I am applying a model here, where what a politician says is just raw material for others to nail down to specific interpretations. This is analogous to a teacher writing down an algebraic equation with the unknowns to be filled in by the students. Though the form of the equation certainly imposes a specific order on the solutions, there can be differences in the solutions depending on which variable we put in. And different interests will do their best to have the answer come out their way. Hence the spin wars. This is my understanding of the concept of spin. It's not that it didn't say so and we made it say so, it's that we have some say in what it says. It is in the Green interest to see Rafsanjani's speech as an opening to more democratic freedom for Iranians. And as a politician Rafsanjani knows that he has allowed this interpretation in his sermon. He seems to have allowed the Green movement to claim his support, and he will neither deny nor confirm this, until the Greens have shown they have a winning chance. Summing up what he really said is this, "When your odds start to look good (mostly up to you Greens to organize that), I will throw my weight behind your movement, meanwhile I won't be an obstacle to your going about gathering strength."  

As you say, Rafsanjani is not a transparent person. I do not known of any good politician who is.


Right on, Ari,

by Ostaad on

Good one, homie. I'm trying like mad to find a quote by Rafsanjani who proclaimed the Shoraayeh Negahban was was supposed to be a temporary body to make sure the joojeh hokoumateh Eslami would gel and then dissolve so "the people" can run it! I'd be much obliged if you or others can find that quote.

Regarding the splits and chinks in the IRI's armor, there two major schisms in that defunct government. One is the one that among the mollahs and the more serious one, in my opinion, is among the Sepah. The mere presence of Mohsen Rezaie in the debates with his interesting opening statement that he said, I'm paraphrasing, I'm entering this race with the code of "Yaa Zahra, yaa Zahra, yaa Zahra" - he was referring to the "code" that he and others used to organize the Sepah to stand up to Saddam's invading army - indicates the Sepah is not united either. Some commentators are mentioning the older generation versus the young generation split in the Sepah, but one thing is clear, not every commander or Sepahhi is behind the Khameneie-Ahmadinejad faction. Kudos to Rezaie for even mentioning the word "federal" in his economic plan during the debates.

Rafsanjani's fortunes are closely tied to this regime, therefore he's doing his darnest to put a ton of lipstick on that pig but I'm not sure that trick will work for long. 

PS, since Mohsen Rezai, was one of the candidate who "lost", I think it's useful to know his views about the botched (s)election too. Here's the link:


There are some interesting comments too.

khaleh mosheh

Thanks Ari.

by khaleh mosheh on

Excellent blog- I enjoyed reading it alot.

Just a question- Spinning I guess means that an interpretation is imposed on the situation that is probably not the case. 

With you translation do you mean this is what Rafasanjani wanted to say but said it opaquely or actually he said no such things but your translations could be spun from what he said?

Rafasanjani is not a transparent person so I was interested to get what you think of his sermon. 

Darius Kadivar

Rafsanjani aka IRI's Talleyrand

by Darius Kadivar on

Not sure if Iran's Talleyrand will survive to the regime's demise he so adamantly contributed to its inception.

To quote Napoleon Bonapart when speaking of Talleyrand:

"Vous Etes De La Merde Dans un Bas de Soie"


""You are shit, Talleyrand, shit in silk stockings." "

I just hope that Aghebateh Rafsanjani va Jomhuryeh Eslami will be similar to this  ...




Ari - This is one of your best

by ramintork on

I've listened to the analysis of the speech from various sources and I prefer yours.

Spot on!

Javad Yassari

A sermon for Khamenei

by Javad Yassari on

22.  "There is a group of people who have no doubts, they have conviction, and go about their business. But there is also another group, whose numbers are not few and include a great section of our erudite and knowledgeable people, who say: " We doubt".:  You guys are complete and utter idiots.  You rig the elections only like an amateur fool would, and you expect educated people to accept it.  You threaten and try to intimidate people who object to this, and when they are not intimidated, you attack, kill, and maim them in full view of the world on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.  Then Khamenei takes sides and Mahmoud announces it as "the cleanest elections in our history."  You suck at cheating, you suck at covering up, and you suck at cleaning up.  You suck.

23.  "We have all lost in this event.":  Actually, not me, nor other candidates, and not even Iranian people.  Khamenei, you are the only one that has lost big time here.  I am the real winner, because though you tried to smear me and get rid of me once and for all by letting Mahmoud go for me and my kids, look around you today.  I am emerging as the spiritual leader of this movement.  Two million people have shown up to hear what I have to say about this country.  Take that.

24.  "Two, we must act in a way that the trust of the people is restored. Of course this cannot be achieved in one day. This is a relatively long process.": ...and it entails Khamenei's removal from his position...soon.

25.  "Unfortunately, a good use was not made of the opportunity that the Supreme Leader [Khamenei] gave the Guardian Council in which an extra five days was given to them to talk to the ulema. I do not of course want to blame anyone for this lost opportunity, but, nonetheless, it did not happen."  And we all know where the blame lies.  The Guardian Council will pay for this, too, you shall see. 

26.  "Under current circumstances, there is no need for us to have people in prisons.":  Unlike other circumstances where there was need for us to have people in prisons, sometimes killing them after they had served their full sentences and beyond.  Khamenei, you are an idiot, you just don't know when to do what.

27.  "Do we not have 30-year experience of running the country? Do we not have ulema? Why should our Sources [of Emulation, meaning senior clerics], who always have been supportive, and our seminary schools, which have never had any expectations for their efforts, be upset today?":  See, I've done my homework, Khamenei.  That's what I was doing for the past month.  You don't have a leg to stand on.

25.  "I hope that this Friday prayer sermon will be a turning point for the future and we will be able to successfully resolve this problem, which unfortunately can be described as a crisis. I hope that unity, fraternity, and fair competition [in elections] will again prevail, so that  people can elect whoever they like.":  Khamenei, this is for all that you did to me and my family over the past four years.  Let this be a lesson to you.  I will save the Islamic Republic of Iran and carry on without you.