Opposition website Jaras, which is assumed to be run by a figure close to Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, has published parts of Rafsanjani’s first statements since his surprising disqualification by the Guardian Council from running for the presidency. Although Rafsanjani doesn’t mention anyone by name, he has had issues with the hard-line policies of both Khamenei’s advisers and Sepah (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), who have increased their influence and presence in state affairs in the last decade or so.
Rafsanjani, addressing his campaign staff this afternoon, said, “I went to the Supreme Leader and told him that I won’t become a candidate if you have someone you prefer.”
Rafsanjani addressed the response to speculation about his running. “I said, ‘I didn’t say I’m not running,’ and that’s when they started gathering an army [against me]. But that’s also when a flood of letters started coming from Qom, Najaf and Mashhad [major Shia centers] for my candidacy. How could I be so obstinate to say no, especially to the youth?”
“I know that I shouldn’t have run,” Rafsanjani said. “I know them better than anyone else.” He continued, “After I registered, I stayed up until the middle of the night thinking about the country’s condition domestically and outside, and those making noise, and I know each one of them and their mentality and their ambitions.” Rafsanjani came under a storm of attacks from hard-line media close to Khamenei after registering for the presidency.
Rafsanjani said that he sees the possibility of disintegration and foreign attacks. “There are dangerous designs in America’s senate. They were awaiting the elections so their responsibility would become clear and presumably, now they will act. They want to separate Sistan, Balochistan and Azarbaijan [three Iranian provinces consisting largely of ethnic minorities] from Iran. Then if Israel attacks Iran, they will help them. Maybe it’s just a psychological war but to quote our clergy, ‘every possibility has a duty.’”
“In my opinion,” Rafsanjani said, “with these scenarios and paths to destruction, they couldn’t possibly have managed the country worse.” He added, “I don’t want to get involved in their types of attacks, but their ignorance is troubling. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Rafsanjani compared Iran’s relations with foreign countries after the Iran-Iraq war to the increasing isolation Iran is facing today. He said, “The foreigners during that time used to call me the ‘easy man’ because it took a very short time for the doors of foreigners to open to us.” After the Iran-Iraq war, Rafsanjani became president and his era is known as the “reconstruction era,” in which some saw their personal wealth grow after the 1980s, a devastating decade of war, sanctions and rations.
Rafsanjani went on, “Now we can easily repeat that experience but with the difference that then, people were kind and sympathetic. There was not so much hostility and segregation in society.” A common theme among some Iranians is that hardships of the last decade, particularly under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has brought about cultural changes for the worse, exacerbating various social and economic tensions.
“Don’t despair,” Rafsanjani said. “Under no condition should anyone be discouraged. This situation was not imaginable for us, either.”
He continued, “Either way, we don’t have a choice. And those that did this are not in need of foreign enemies because the problems are taking place domestically.”