Iranians, West wonder if Rafsanjani set for a comeback

Reuters speculates: Seeing two of your children jailed in three days would not normally signal your luck is on the up. But for the great survivor of Iranian politics it could mean just that.

Few Iranians have wielded more influence than Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997 and a behind-the-scenes operator since the birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

But since voicing sympathy for the protesters who said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009 was rigged, Rafsanjani has come under intense criticism from hardliners and seen his power fade.

Ahmadinejad survived the protests thanks to a security crack-down and the support of Iran’s most powerful authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Three years on, with the leadership divided and under intense pressure from economic sanctions, there is growing talk of the need once again for some Rafsanjani pragmatism.

“The reformists have been closed out, conservatives have little attraction because of the situation Iran is in and there is potential for Rafsanjani,” said a well-informed Iranian source based in Europe.

“Since the 2009 election, the stature of the leader has diminished and Rafsanjani has gained credibility.”

On Saturday, his daughter Faezeh, who openly backed Ahmadinejad’s election rivals, was jailed for spreading “anti-government propaganda” and, two days later, her brother Mehdi was incarcerated on return from three years abroad.

But rather being the latest humiliation for Rafsanjani, 78, who was stopped from leading Friday prayers three years ago and lost his post at the top of an important state body, analysts say it may be a sign his fortunes are improving. [Continue reading…]

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