October 14, 2013 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1027

The Struggle Between Khamenei And Rafsanjani Over The Iranian Leadership – Part VII: Rafsanjani Creates A Schism In Khamenei's Camp

October 14, 2013 | By A. Savyon, Yossi Mansharof, and E. Kharrazi*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1027

Recently, Hashemi Rafsanjani has successfully created a schism in the camp of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in two aspects. First, in the ideological aspect, Rafsanjani has forced his position in favor of direct talks with the U.S. on Khamenei, thus compelling him to become more flexible in this major ideological issue. In the second aspect, prominent figures in Khamenei's camp, such as conservative Majlis member Ahmad Tavakkoli; advisor to the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Expediency Council member Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi; Majlis speaker Ali Larijani; and others who previously expressed firm ideological stands against any dialogue with the U.S. are now beginning to explain why Iran should conduct direct talks with the U.S.

This paper will review notable statements by these regime officials:

Ahmad Tavakkoli: Obama Has Surrendered To Iran And Has Recognized Iran's Nuclear Right

Ahmad Tavakkoli

In an interview with the Iranian Arabic-language channel Al-'Aalam, conservative Majlis member Ahmad Tavakkoli said that U.S. President Barack Obama had surrendered to Iran by recognizing Iran's nuclear right. Tavakkoli explained that the U.S. had backed down from its traditional stand vis-à-vis Iran, and that it was now willing to talk with Iran without any preconditions – preconditions that it had expressed by demanding that Iran stop supporting Hizbullah, stop violating the human rights of regime opponents, and stop developming weapons of mass destruction. This, Tavakkoli said, means that Iran could take advantage of this opportunity and agree to talk with the U.S. He added that Tehran expects actions, not just words, from President Obama, and expects him to use his presidential veto against Congress in order to reject the additional sanctions proposed by Senators Menendez and Graham, which are set for discussion later this month – which Tavakkoli says will prove his sincerity in this matter.

The following are excerpts from the interview:

"Now, for the first time, [the Americans] are interested in negotiations [with Iran], without setting preconditions. Iran has, over the years, conducted unofficial negotiations with the Americans on the issues of Afghanistan and Iraq, [but] now we are in a situation where senior White House officials have understood that they cannot solve regional issues, incuding Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and that they need relations [with Iran].

"In his speech at the U.N., the American president spoke respectfully of [Iranian] Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his [nuclear] fatwa, and appears to have surrendered and in effect recognized the Iranian people's nuclear right. He [Obama] has fallen from a superior status to an inferior status. We took advantage of this opportunity to resolve the injustices done [to us] by the U.S. in various areas, including in the nuclear issue, by means of negotiation.

"In all these 30-plus years [since the 1979 establishment of the regime of the Islamic Revolution], when the Americans invited us to talks, this was in fact an invitation to a prosecution [against us]. It was they who determined the agenda of the meeting, and they accused us: Why are you supporting Hizbullah in Lebanon, claiming that this [organization] is the embodiment of terror; Why are you developing WMDs, and why are you violating human rights? In recent years, the nuclear issue has also been added to this [litany of accusations]..."

The American Superpower Has Announced That It Will Conduct Relations Of Mutual Respect With Iran

"What matters is actions, even though declarations precede actions. If we want to set preconditions [for the Americans], we will become like them. We also realize that there are disagreements within the U.S. [Therefore], it is enough that the superpower backs down from the condition it has been demanding for 30 years and that it declares that it will conduct relations of mutual respect with Iran for a new process to begin. But we must be alert, and must wait for a measure on their part. Each side needs to understand the situation of the other, and must commence practical actions.

"We are not expecting a miracle, and we know that in the U.S. there are obstacles in Obama's path. But we are facing a president who heads a presidential system, a president with the right of veto over Congressional decisions under certain circumstances. Therefore, we cannot say that if our opponents in the U.S., for example the Zionists, want to block Obama's path, we will not welcome this opportunity [to talk with the U.S.] which may not yield results. We indeed welcome this opportunity, and are aware that this path will not be without difficulties, but that there are practical and and clear tests [of Obama's sincerity].

"The oppresive sanctions must be lifted from Iran, in order to prove good intentions. Perhaps the American statesmen will deliver declarations opposing this [lifting of sanctions], in favor of their interests, but we need to know what they will actually do. In Iran too there are those who oppose [dialogue with the U.S.] and those who approve. They they have the right to express their opinions. But the regime has institutions that make decisions in accordance with the laws, and that examine the issues soberly. We must not be pessimistic, but we must also not be over-optimistic.

"We can arrive at a solution that will preserve the interests of the Iranian nation in the world in a logical framework – that is, [under which] we will lift the curtain that they placed in front of the eyes of the world so that it becomes known that we do not intend to develop nuclear weapons.

"We do not yearn for negotiations, in and of themselves, with those who perpetrated so much injustice against us. We are negotiating only with the aim of attaining results. Wasting time and sitting around with arms folded do not serve our interests. If they really aspire to solve the issue, as they say, and if they are honest, then the signs of this will rapidly become clear; within less than three months it will be possible to see this. Obviously, it will not be possible to solve everything within three months. But the signs will become evident, and they will be enough [to let us know whether we should] continue on the path. But if they begin to drag their feet and make excuses, it will become clear that the talks are only talks, and a waste of time – and we do not want to waste time..."

The American Attempt To Paralyze Iran Has Failed

"We have no obligations. We will act according to how they act, and we will make decisions in accordance with the circumstances... People in the U.S. think that they are God and that if they wish it, everything will change – and that if they level sanctions on Tehran, Iran will be miserable and will be unable to do a thing. They are mistaken. The U.S.'s aim was to paralyze Iran by means of the sanctions, [so] they kept making them harsher. But they accomplished nothing. The extremist American officials thought that by increasing the sanctions they could subjugate Iran, but that did not happen.

"On the other hand, now that the harsher sanctions have proven fruitless, some American officials think that at the very least, this opportunity should not be missed. Both camps exist in the U.S., and right now Barack Obama represents the latter camp. We must see which camp wins out, and act accordingly.

"The Iranian people knows that relations with the U.S. will not solve all its problems, and that its problems are not the result of an absence of relations with the U.S. The Americans will not get their wish of paralyzing Iran, which holds fast to its position."

Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, Advisor To IRGC Commander: "We Are Not Denying The Fact That We Need Dialogue With... The U.S."

At Tehran Friday prayers on October 4, Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, advisor to the IRGC commander and a member of Iran's Expediency Council, explained to the public why Iran is entering into negotiations with the U.S.:

"In recent weeks we have witnessed a new stream and a new approach [towards the U.S.], which at first glance appear different than what we are used to. But, as has been emphasized a number of times, all [Iranian] moves will be in the framework of regime diplomacy. This move [i.e. the Iran-U.S. dialogue] is being carried out as part of the regime's tactical shift and maneuvering aimed at resolving international issues. This change, which is meant to be a breakthrough, has been defined by [Leader] Khamenei as 'heroic flexibility'... The aim of the talks with the U.S. is to obtain nuclear energy... Today we are promoting a different approach, that Islam does not prevent. You must remember that even the Infallible Imams tried different paths and methods at various times to achieve the goal...[1]

"We are not denying the fact that we need dialogue with the world and with the U.S. They need it as well. At the very least, we need these talks to put a stop to their evil acts, such as the oppressive sanctions on us, and [therefore] we are compelled to obtain a breakthrough in our relations [with the U.S.]."[2]

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani: "We Can Establish Relations" With The U.S.

Majlis speaker Ali Larijani hinted, during an October 7 visit to Serbia, that it was possible to arrive at an agreement with the U.S.: "We believe that under the different conditions that exist now an opportunity has been created for several countries [i.e. the U.S.], which up to now have had a different attitude towards Iran, to try and resolve the issue, in light of [the current] reality. In New York [during Iranian President Rohani's visit] new ground was paved, by means of which we can establish relations [with the U.S.] – obviously, without reiterating past [hostile] statements. The time of past statements is over, and we must talk in accordance with today's reality."[3]


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