Newspaper Close to Khamenei Denies Last-Minute Call From Supreme Leader to Rafsanjani

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In an interview with Shargh newspaper yesterday, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s eldest daughter recounted the final minutes in which Rafsanjani decided to head to the Interior Ministry building to register his name for the Iranian presidential elections.

Fatemeh Hashemi said that Rafsanjani and his children and grandchildren had gathered at his office since that Saturday morning, the final day of registration. They had discussed the pros and cons of his entering the elections until late afternoon, at which point Fatemeh became “certain that he had made up his mind and was not going to register.”

The phone to Rafsanjani’s office then rang at 5:15 p.m. Fatemeh said that Rafsanjani went into his private office and “had a relatively short phone conversation, came out of the room and said ‘Bismallah [in the name of God], let’s go.’” Fatemeh said, “I don’t know who called, but certainly his concerns were addressed.” Rafsanjani had previously said that he would not run without Khamenei’s consent, and some have speculated someone from Khamenei’s office could have called and gave the go ahead for Rafsanjani to register.

Hojat Al-Islam Ali Asghari, an adviser for the Center for Strategic Research, which is connected to the powerful Expediency Council which Rafsanjani chairs, recounted a similar story to Arya News. Asghari said that indeed it was the supreme leader on the other end of that last-minute phone call.

Kayhan, the paper believed to most closely represent the views of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote, “Any type of phone call between Rafsanjani and Khamenei about his candidacy for the elections has been denied.” The article, which addressed Asghari’s claims directly, continued, “The follow-up work of this paper with various sources has shown that on the day in question, there was no phone call between the supreme leader and Rafsanjani.”

Others have speculated that Rafsanjani’s timing was coordinated such that it would coincide with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei’s last-minute registration. Fatemeh replied to this accusation by saying, “These rumors are false. There was no coordination. Until the final moment, Rafsanjani was assessing the situation, and his decision to register was never clear.”

Sadegh Zibakalam, a political analyst and professor close to Rafsanjani, made controversial comments about Iran’s support of Syria last week in a debate with Hojat Al-Islam Seyed Abbas Nabavi. Although the debate took place last week before Rafsanjani’s registration, the text of the debate was published today by Jahan News.

Zibakalam said, “In one word, Rafsanjani sees the country in a state of crisis.” He said that crisis includes the economy, domestic politics, foreign policy, sanctions and negotiations with P5+1. Zibakalam said that “Rafsanjani sees the unquestionable support of a regime like Syria’s, that is in a state of collapse, as a mistake.” Zibakalam has previously made similar comments himself about Iran’s support of Syria.

Zibakalam then reprimanded Principlists by saying, “We’ve turned France, Germany, Canada and Spain into our enemies and pushed them to become allied with the US and England. We’ve replaced them with countries … such as Venezuela, Guinea and the Republic of Benin.” Although the president does not control foreign policy in Iran, Zibakalam argued that Rafsanjani can be influential in the final decision-making process.