Women walk past electoral posters for the upcoming elections in central Tehran February 24, 2016. REUTERS

June 15, 2021

In a television program aired Sunday, Heydar Moslehi, intelligence minister during the 2013 presidential election, claimed he convinced the constitutional watchdog the Guardian Council to bar former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running in the poll.

Moslehi added that he calculated the costs and benefits of disqualifying Rafsanjani based on considerations over preserving the nezam, meaning the ruling regime headed by Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader.

On Monday, Iran’s vice president Es’haq Jahangiti in a series of tweets challenged the Guardian Council to publish the film of its meetings in 2013 to inform the public of this important decision that might have infringed on their right to electing a president of their coice.

Rafsanjani in an interview with Entekhab news website in 2015 referred to Moslehi’s role in his disqualification by the Guardian Council. Moslehi has now claimed he wrote a two-page report for the council “summing up the cost-benefits of approving Rafsanjani to run and cost-benefits of disqualifying him.” This, he said, followed intelligence gathered “in the streets” in 2013 leading his ministry to think Rafsanjani would win the election, even though he had lost heavily to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.

The spokesman of the Guardian Council Abbas-Ali Khadkhodaei tweeted Monday a denial of Moslehi’s claims and said the election watchdog’s decisions on candidates were independent.  Hardliners claimed at the time that the council disqualified Rafsanjani, then 79, due to his age.

Hashemi Rafsanjani (L) and Ali Khamenei in late 1980s or early 1990s.

Rafsanjani, who died in 2017, was a major figure after the 1979 Revolution, as war commander against Iraq, in engineering Ali Khamenei’s selection as supreme leader after the founder of the Islamic Republic Ruhollah Khomeini died in June 1989, and then as president from 1989 to 1997. But Khamenei’s leadership brought the rise of other figures.

“If two decades ago someone claimed that a low-ranking cleric [that is, Moslehi] could convince 12 jurisprudents and law specialists [the members of the Guardian Council] to disqualify a figure such as Hashemi-Rafsanjani, he would have been taken to a mental hospital,” prominent reformist journalist Abbas Abdi tweeted(link is external) Sunday.

Another journalist, Masoud Nouri, in a tweet Monday(link is external) said Moslehi’s remarks revealed how easy it was to figure out how and why the current presidential election – polling June 18 – had begun with the Guardian Council excluding vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri, former parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and reformist lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian.

After being excluded from the 2013 election, Rafsanjani encouraged Hassan Rouhani, a close associate, to run against principlists including Saeed Jalili and Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf). Rafsanjani and reformist former president Mohammad Khatami backed Rouhani, who pledged to reach an international agreement over Iran’s nuclear program and end a stand-off that had led to international sanctions and recession in Iran. Rouhani won the election with 63 percent of the vote.

Not satisfied with Moslehi’s claims, outspoken former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi in a tweet(link is external) said there might also have been consideration of the “cost-benefits” of Rafsanjani “remaining alive or being dead.” Authorities attributed Rafsanjani’s death in 2017 to cardiac arrest but his family, including daughters Fatemeh and Faezeh, suggested that he had been murdered.  Faezeh in 2018 claimed that hospital tests found radioactivity(link is external) in her father’s body ten times a “permissible” level.

Despite an early friendship with Rafsanjani, Khamenei began excluding him from major decisions by mid-2000s as the once-influential aide to Khomeini was seen as a possible second pole of authority in the country.

Moslehi served as intelligence minister under the principlist Ahmadinejad from 2009 to 2013. Moslehi and Ahmadinejad had a tense relationship and eventually he resigned in 2011, but Khamenei rejected the resignation and ordered his reinstatement. This led Ahmadinejad to stay home and shun his presidential office for 11 days.

Iran International

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.