October 28, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5499

The Struggle Between Khamenei And Rafsanjani Over The Iranian Leadership – Part VIII: Rafsanjani Receives Death Threats

October 28, 2013
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 5499

Recent statements by Iranian Expediency Council head Hashemi Rafsanjani regarding his claim that regime founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would have agreed in principle to the omission of the "Death to America" slogan. This claim, which he made in order to prepare the ground for direct negotiations with the U.S. on the nuclear issue, has sparked strong ideological and emotional protests in the anti-Rafsanjani camp.[1]

As will be recalled, on September 30, 2013, Rafsanjani's office presented an excerpt from his memoirs in which he made this claim. The excerpt had been published under the headline "The Imam [Khomeini] agreed to the omission of the 'Death to America' [slogan]."[2]

The week before that, Rafsanjani had stated that Khomeini had told him in a private meeting on September 14, 1988 that "regarding the U.S., his opinion is that we should not cause [the U.S.] to despair regarding [the possibility of] a renewal of relations – even though the [Iranian] people will not be quick to accept this."[3]

Protests in the anti-Rafsanjani camp were manifested in various ways, including in a demonstration against Rafsanjani and U.S. President Obama right after the Tehran Friday sermon on October 4, 2013.[4] In addition, officials in the camp that is opposed to dialogue with the U.S., such as Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Ali Ja'fari and others, launched personal attacks on Rafsanjani, because of what they called "his attempt to change the Khomeini legacy." They claimed that he was either senile or acting to secure his own interests and the interests of the U.S., not of the Iranian regime – and that he was therefore a traitor who should be put to death.

It should be noted that following the public's negative reaction to him in this matter, including the issuing of a court summons for two of his children, Rafsanjani said that his office had not coordinated with him before releasing his statements, and that he had asked it to remove them from its website.[5] Nevertheless, he reiterated, on various Iranian media close to him, his argument that because times and circumstances had changed, Iran had to "adopt a friendly approach towards the U.S. and sit down with it at the negotiating table."[6]

This paper will review death threats received by Rafsanjani and ideology-based criticism of him, in the wake of his recent statements:

Death Threats Against Rafsanjani

Tehran Preacher: "May God Bring Death To Rafsanjani"

At an October 15, 2013 religious ceremony in Tehran, prominent preacher Mansour Arzi mentioned Rafsanjani's claim that Ayatollah Khomeini had agreed in principle to the omission of the "Death to America" slogan and said, "May God bring death to Rafsanjani."[7]

Media circles supportive of Rafsanjani did protest against Arzi's statements,[8] but Rafsanjani's family attorney Ali-Reza Tabatabai said, "Rafsanjani has not filed a complaint. The best reaction is to ignore [the incident.]."[9]

Former Senior IRGC Official: Anyone Who Comes Out Against The Regime Will Be Eliminated

In an October 18, 2013 interview with the Fars news agency, which is close to the IRGC, Saeed Qasemi, formerly an IRGC official and now an official in the conservative Iranian group Hizbullah, accused Rafsanjani of "attack[ing] the philosophy of the Imam [Khomeini]." He added: "This new attack on the philosophy of the Imam is being waged by Rafsanjani, by that woman,[10] and by other figures... Either they are afflicted with Alzheimer's or they were never in harmony with the Imam from the very beginning... With God's help, we will witness the death of this thinking, and together with that, of these [three] individuals... The affair of Montazeri and the Montazeris took place so that no one should be afraid.[11] The Imam [Khomeini] said once that we need nothing from anyone, and that anyone who comes out against the [Islamic] Revolution, regardless of his position, will be eliminated."[12]

Iranian Website: Death To Rafsanjani

In early October 2013, the regime website, which opposes Rafsanjani and focuses on thwarting anti-Iranian propaganda that the regime calls "soft warfare," published a poster with images of Hashemi Rafsanjani; his son Mahdi Hashemi; Green movement leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Muhammad Khatami, and Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, aide to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under the headline: "Death to the opponents of the Rule of the Jurisprudent." The website later removed the poster, but it was reposted by other Iranian websites. In response, the reformist website Ensafnews warned against assassinating Rafsanjani, and stated that Afsaran had called for "death to Hashemi Rafsanjani."[13]

The poster. Left to right, top: Moussavi, Karroubi; bottom: Mahdi Hashemi, Mashaei, Khatami, Rafsanjani.

Khamenei Camp's Ideology-Based Attacks On Rafsanjani

IRGC Commander Ja'fari: Rafsanjani Contradicts Khomeini's Legacy, Khamenei's Policy

At an October 13, 2013 IRGC conference in Borjnord, in northeastern Iran, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Ja'fari attacked Hashemi Rafsanjani, claiming that he had deviated from the orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and that he is distorting Ayatollah Khomeini's legacy to suit his own purposes. He said: "One of the issues discussed today is that of relations with the U.S. Some people have drawn deviant conclusions from the orders of Leader [Khamenei] regarding 'heroic flexibility.'[14] Flexibility means we do not aspire to war. This flexibility is meant to give the enemy a chance to respect Iran's right in the various aspects. [However,] some have exploited this statement [i.e. Khamenei's statement on heroic flexibility] and this position [of Khamenei] and have drawn independent conclusions. Some also concluded that relations with the U.S. would solve [Iran's] problems and eliminate the sanctions.

"Leader [Khamenei] provided this opportunity for putting this view to the test and seeing whether the enemy acts rationally. We should not back down from our right in the various aspects. Neither logic nor the Koran, nor the people, would permit us to back down from positions regarding the [nuclear] right of the reigme of the Islamic Republic. Why do people allow themselves to change the words of the Leader [Khamenei] and the Imam [Khomeini, according to which the 'Death to America' slogan can be omitted]? The Imam never said such things, and never held a conciliatory attitude towards the U.S.

"The U.S. will weaken in the distant future, or the near future. It is possible that it will gradually change its arrogant nature. However, we do not currently see this happening. Preparing this atmosphere [for dialogue with the U.S.] contradicts the statements of the Imam [Khomeini] and is a grave error. Some people who see themselves as close to the Imam [i.e. Rafsanjani, in reality] are saying things that contradict his line. Despite this, the people are clever and always look to the views of Leader [Khamenei] and of the founder of the Islamic Republic [Khomeini]...

"The moves of those who were silent regarding the fitna [i.e. the June 2009 unrest following the presidential election, referring to Rafsanjani] will never be forgotten. The regime has been dealing with these issues since the onset of the Revolution, and even today there is talk [of reviving the fitna]. The IRGC and the Basij are alert to these statements and [are acting] as part of the Islamic regime. Today, all the military forces of the Islamic regime are prepared to give their lives on the front lines of the Revolution and will spare no effort to fight on this path."[15]

In an October 20, 2013 conference in Mashhad, Ja'fari said: "It is a shame that some people do not appreciate the blessing [stemming from] national strength. Perhaps they have forgotten that it is the U.S. that should be held accountable for all its crimes [against Iran], including fitna, wars, destabilization of security, sanctions, and inflation. Some people who call themselves revolutionaries and consider themselves close to regime officials [i.e. Rafsanjani] quote baseless statements in the name of Imam Khomeini, who considered the U.S. the Great Satan. Had Imam Khomeini been alive today, his anti-arrogance spirit against the U.S. would have been much greater today than it was during his lifetime."[16]

Mashregh To Rafsanjani: Only Khamenei Is Qualified To Determine The Regime's Interest

In an October 15, 2013 article titled "Rafsanjani's Withdrawal From the Imam's Logic: Mr. Rafsanjani, Beware Public Pessimism [Against You]," the Mashregh website, which is close to security circles, warned Rafsanjani that his conduct could lead to his loss of prestige with the public:[17] "Mr. Rafsanjani is [as head of the Expediency Council] well aware that in social issues and in general regime issues, recognizing the national interest is the duty of the jurisprudent ruler, and that it is not [possible to allow just] anyone to feel that he can [determine] society's interest on the basis of his own personal understanding [alone]... or to sow doubts on one issue or another. If Ayatollah Rafsanjani sows doubts in society at every historic juncture and backs down so easily from his position [that we must not talk with the U.S.] while blaming others [i.e. his office] after undermining public order and public opinion in the country, he will lose his prestige with the public, and with the revolutionaries, the elites, and his friends..."

Ayatollah Mesbah-e Yazdi's Spokesman: Rafsanjani Will Not Succeed In Transforming The Great Satan Into A Savior Angel

In an October 15, 2013 interview with the Fars news agency, Qassem Ravanbakhsh, spokesman and student of Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-e Yazdi, said: "Not only did Imam Khomeini not agree to the omission of the 'death to America' slogan, but he also stressed that its usage must continue... America and the regime in Israel are the embodiments of Satanism, oppression, and arrogance, and we must distance ourselves from polytheists such as they.

"Imam Khomeini tried to spread this slogan to the Iranian nation and the other world nations... [Rafsanjani] knew even before [today] how to solve the problems with the relations with the U.S., and today is taking steps along this line of thought as well, and sees negotiations with the U.S. and a relationship with it as key to the success of the government of [President] Rohani. [Rafsanjani] wants to see himself as the grand savior of the Iranian nation...

"The Iranian nation has proven that it is aware of the intentions of those who want to transform the Great Satan into a savior angel, and will not submit to the creation of such an atmosphere."[18]

Cartoon in Fars: "The Enemy Is Still An Enemy." On flag: "Death To America"[19]

Kayhan: The Slogan "Death To America" Is One Of The Most Humane Slogans In The World

On October 5, 2013, the daily Kayhan responded to Rafsanjani's claims and explained that the omission of the slogan "Death to America" contradicts the regime's identity. In addition, the daily warned Iran's nuclear negotiating team not to misinterpret the "heroic flexibility" that Khamenei was permitting, and not to back down on the nuclear issue: "It can be argued that the conditions of the Revolution and the Islamic regime today are substantially different from those during the approval of [the 1988 U.N. Security Council] Resolution 598 [calling for a ceasefire between Iran and Iraq] or [during] the peace of the Imam Hassan or the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah...[20]

"The slogan 'Death to America' is an inherently Islamic and humane slogan of a nation that for 60 years has seen nothing from the American regime except crime, betrayal, selfishness, and hooliganism. Can such suffering be forgotten? Is the cry 'Death to America' like a [government] that is issued today and can be rescinded tomorrow? They say: 'Just as you [no longer] say 'Death to the Soviet Union,' stop saying 'Death to America.'

"The answer to that is that the slogan 'Death to the Soviet Union' has come true, so it was obsolete. With Allah's help, when the U.S.'s arrogance crumbles as well, or, as the Imam [Khomeini] said, 'when the U.S. becomes a human being,' then the slogan 'Death to America' will be obsolete as well.

"But as long as the White House's arrogance and oppression persist, the slogan 'Death to America' will still be heard throughout the world. This is one of the most humane slogans in the world."[21]

Majlis Member: Rafsanjani Is Working Against The Interests Of Islam And Fulfilling Enemy Ambitions

On October 3, 2013, Majlis member Mohammad Dahqan, a supporter of Khamenei, attacked Rafsanjani and said: "The Imam [Khomeini] expressed his opposition to the criminal U.S. several times in his speeches, and called it the greatest Satan in the world. Unfortunately, some people today are making baseless statements in his name...

"These people have for some time been regretful about their [revolutionary] past and are [now] working against the interest of the regime... They aspire to fulfill enemy ambitions instead of the national interest, whether they mean to or not."[22]


[2], September 30, 2013.

[3], September 24, 2013.

[5], October 15, 2013; Mehr, Iran, October 14, 2013.

[6] See for example, October 21, 2013.

[7], October 15, 2013.

[8] The Jomhouri-e Eslami daily wondered "why a platform is being given to this man." Jomhouri-e Eslami, October 19, 2013., which supports Rafsanjani, wrote, "The words of Mansour Arzi are in no way befitting of our moral and religious instruction.", Iran, October 17, 2013

[9], October 17, 2013.

[10] A reference to Naima Ashraqi, granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who said on her Facebook page that Khomenei and his family members used to make fun of the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) as Khomeini was urging IRGC fighters to marry the widows of IRGC soldiers killed in battle. She said that Khomeini would laughingly say he'd like to be an IRGC fighter and marry one of the widows. Her statements sparked public rage.

[11] Ayatollah Montazeri was the designated heir of Ayatollah Khomeini, but due to his criticism of Khomeini and of his regime he was deposed from his position by Khomeini before the latter's death in 1989 and spent many years under house arrest as a regime opponent.

[12] Fars, Iran, October 18, 2013.

[15] Fars (Iran), October 13, 2013.

[16] ISNA (Iran), October 20, 2013.

[17] Mashregh (Iran), October 15, 2013.

[18] Fars (Iran), October 15, 2013.

[19] Fars (Iran), October 21, 2013.

[20] The Truce of Hudaybiyya is a 10-year armistice agreement signed by the Prophet Muhammad and the people of Mecca in 628 CE. This set the precedent in Islamic tradition for making agreements with infidels. See also MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1018, The Struggle Between Khamenei And Rafsanjani Over The Iranian Leadership – Part IV: Rafsanjani Calls For Moderation In The Spirit Of 'Islamic Realism'; Khamenei Is Ready For 'Heroic Flexibility' By Iran But Without Compromising Revolutionary Principles, September 23, 2013

[21] Kayhan (Iran), October 5, 2013.

[22] Jahan News (Iran), October 3, 2013.

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