Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani today was chosen by the 86 senior cleric members of the Assembly of Experts to head the powerful and secretive body.
Rafsanjani, 73, replaces Ali Mehkini who passed away in July. He defeated Ayatollah Ahmad Janatti, the candidate favored by radical fundamentalists.
The fundamentalists originally wanted to have Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi to replace Meshkini. In anticipation of Rafsanjani’s candidacy, they launched an all-out attack on his character in the past couple of weeks. The latest was accusations that Rafsanjani had made up a quote by the late Ayatollah Khomeini to justify his moderate stand on relations with the US. Just in the past few days, they settled on Janatti as having a better chance to stop Rafsanjani. The final tally in today’s selection was kept secret.
At the end the majority of traditionally conservative ayatollahs who make up the bulk of the membership in the assembly sided with Rafsanjani. The fundamentalists’ radical foreign policies which has brought the country to the verge of an armed conflict do not bode well with the conservative clerics who do not wish their secure positions at old age be threatened by conflicts and wars.
The defeat by the fundamentalists today, however, is not the end of the infighting over the course Iran needs to follow during these very sensitive times. The battle for Majlis, with its elections coming up in March, is taking shape.
President Ahmadinejad is already accusing eight to ten of his opponents in the moderate and reformist camp as traitors who have given away Iran’s nuclear secrets to the foreigners. Even with the Machiavellian state of political affairs prevalent in the Islamic Republic, this is considered crossing of a red line, probably beyond repair.
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