(The Newest Deal) | March 12, 2010
As the Persian Nowruz New Year fast approaches and Iran’s post-election crisis enters its ninth month, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani remains as mercurial a figure as ever in Iranian politics. True to his nickname of Kooseh, or “The Shark,” Rafsanjani has been paying lip-service to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei while simultaneously signaling (if only tacitly) solidarity with Iran’s Green opposition movement. With his reputation as an incredibly calculating figure, it is hard to believe that this contradiction is coincidental. In fact, Rafsanjani’s high level of influence in the system may be paradoxically inhibiting him from more closely aligning with the Green Movement.
In many ways, Rafsanjani’s position resembles that of the boy who stuck his finger in the leaking dike in Hans Brinker’s classic tale. In the story, the boy’s plugging of the hole with his finger was not an attempt to solve the problem at hand, but rather, to prevent an immediate and far more dangerous outcome from occurring. Had the boy gone to fetch help to repair the dike, the levee would have broken and the city would have been flooded. By staying at the dike all night — not fixing the problem, but preventing it from worsening — the boy bought time until others discovered him the next morning and were able to make necessary, lasting repairs.
Rafsanjani may find himself in similar circumstances and equally incapable of making a significant move. Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard have shown no intention of curbing their quest to completely control the Islamic Republic. What started out hand-in-hand with the Supreme Leader (with his undoubted blessing of plans to rig the June election) has grown into something far greater. Only one month after the election, Ahmadinejad publicly disobeyed Khamenei by failing to immediately withdraw Esfandiar Mashaei as his top deputy after the Supreme Leader voiced his disapproval. A month later, he showed up unannounced in the Majlis parliament flanked by his armed bodyguards. Constitutional rights have been discarded in countless instances. Needless to say, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that “Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship” appears troublingly accurate.