On April 16, Saham News, a website close to Mehdi Karroubi, published an article which quoted an anonymous source who was present at a meeting between the head of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and provincial governors during Rafsanjani’s and Mohammad Khatami’s presidencies. The following day, the public-relations department of the Expediency Council denied the reports attributed to Rafsanjani.
According to the Saham article, the meeting took place in order “to convince Rafsanjani to participate in the presidential elections.” Rafsanjani was previously president of Iran from 1989 to 1997, during what was called the post-war re-construction era.
According to the source, Rafsanjani said that he met with Khamenei the night before the meeting with the governors to discuss the “issues and challenges” of the country. However, Rafsanjani told the governors that Khamanei “fundamentally thinks differently, and doesn’t accept the present problems” of the country.
Rafsanjani said that his relationship with Khamenei “was like two brothers, but what has taken place in recent years has caused [Khameni] not to have confidence in me.” After the 2009 contested elections, Rafsanjani took a softer stance than Khamenei’s, essentially positioning the two on opposing sides. In 2011, Rafsanjani lost his position as head of the Assembly of Experts, a move that some analysts believe was an attempt to decrease his powers and influence.
Saham wrote, “Based on this meeting [with Khamenei], Rafsanjani concluded that under these conditions, nothing can be done, and emphasized that his participation in the [presidential] election is not appropriate.” He added that “reforming the conditions of the country is not even possible without the cooperation of Khamenei.” Many took these statements to mean that his candidacy will not happen after all.
At the meeting with the governors, Rafsajani also criticized the Revolutionary Guard (Sepah)’s influence in the country by comparing and contrasting their role during his presidency and today. He said that “Sepah’s engineering combat corps during the time of war could be useful for the re-construction efforts, and we gave them projects to complete such as building roads. It was useful both for the country and for Sepah. But now, Sepah has taken the economy, domestic and foreign policy in its hands, and it won’t be satisfied with anything less than the entire country.”
After Saham published the original story, many other websites had picked it up. The public-relations department of the Expediency Council then released a statement which read that the quotes attributed to Rafsanjani were “distorted and don’t match what was stated at the meeting … especially the topics of lack of confidence and the of economics and domestic and foreign policy.” The statement also read that “while denying the content that was contrary to truth, it is expected of the media when publishing news to preserve its integrity and ethics and to refrain from quoting news which is an interpretation of personal or group decisions and tastes.”
Saham News responded to the statement by Rafsanjani’s office and wrote that its original story was “correct.” They said that before publishing the news, they acquired the “confirmation of two other trustworthy sources.”