The Memoirs of a Pragmatic Ayatollah

19 July 2010 | 15:35 Code : 8096 General category
“The Record and Memoirs of Hashemi Rafsanjani”, the authoritative source in Iran’s post-Revolution developments.
The Memoirs of a Pragmatic Ayatollah
Undoubtedly the highest profile document published yet on Iran’s post-Revolution developments, “The Record and Memoirs of Hashemi Rafsanjani” will become an invaluable source for future historians. Rafsanjani’s daily log helps decode a number of ambiguous points about incidents in the early years of the Islamic Republic. Diplomatic relations, friction between politicians, and behind the scenes accounts of domestic and international deals and arrangements will find a new meaning after reading the memoirs of the man known as “the always-second figure of the Islamic Republic”.
Prime Minister’s Bureau after Bomb Explosion - Tehran, August 30, 1981

His diary has, of course, been the target of point-blank criticism. Pro-Ahmadinejad media have doubted its veracity in some cases; others (such as the hard-line Ya Lasarat weekly) believe that that the time has not yet come to reveal all the facts about the Islamic Republic. Mohsen Rezae’i –Hashemi Rafsanjani’s right-hand in the Council of Expediency Discernment- has refuted his account of the end of the war with Iraq and how Ayatollah Khomeini came to accept Resolution 598. Hashemi Rafsanjani’s most zealous critic is perhaps Abbas Salimi Namin, head of the Bureau for Compilation of Iran’s Contemporary History, who happens to also be an outspoken critic of Azad University, which is chaired by Abdullah Jasbi, Hashemi’s protégé. In terms of reliability, the facts that Hashemi was one of the closest companions of the late Ayatollah Khomeini and appointed by him to several key positions (1), and had numerous private meetings with the leader of the Islamic Revolution, have been both a blessing and a curse. Hashemi’s memoirs begin in the Persian year 1360 (March 1981), therefore omitting the first two stormy years after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. As the seasoned politician says himself, the two-year gap arose from a pre-Revolution fear that written documents would fall into the hands of the Shah’s intimidating intelligence service (SAVAK). So far, four books of Hashemi’s memories, covering from the Persian years 1360 to 1364 (March 1981-March 1986) have been published. The titles and key points of each year are as follows:

Members of the Parliament Who Survived June 28, 1981 Bomb Explosion on Wheelchairs

Weathering the Crisis, 1360 [March 1981/March 1982]: This was a tough year in economic, political, military and security affairs for the Islamic Republic, as Hashemi confesses in his memoir. The struggle between the first president of the Islamic Republic, Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr, and influential clerics, including Hashemi Rafsanjani, culminated in Bani Sadr’s impeachment and subsequent dismissal by the parliament. The rift between Iran’s traditional Army (purged of monarchists after the Revolution) and the Revolutionary Guards had decreased the chances of dislodging Iraqi troops from Iranian territory. Security was weak at borders, particularly in Kurdistan, Sistan and Baluchistan, Azerbaijan, Susangerd (in the south-western Khuzestan Province), and also in Tehran. Ayatollah Khamenei was injured in an attempted terrorist attack, just one day before 72 members of the Islamic Republic Party were killed in a bombing in central Tehran. A couple of months later, the newly elected president Mohammad Ali Rajayi and prime minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar were killed in yet another blast. But with Ayatollah Khamenei’s election as the new president, relative political stability returned to Iran.

Hashemi Rafsanjani as Commander of War

After the Crisis, 1361 [March 1982/March 1983]: Relative stability, and disagreements that were mitigated came as a relief to Ayatollah Khomeini, nothwithstanding the fact that large sections of five Iranian provinces were still under Iraqi army occupation. Iran made remarkable progress on the war front in this year, however: the operations Samen-ol-A’emeh (The Eighth Imam) and Beit-ol-Moqaddas (Quds) pushed back the Iraqi forces, but the apex of Iran’s military operations was Operation Fath-ol-Mobin (The Manifest Victory), which vitiated Iraq’s war machine through the liberation of the strategic port of Khorramshahr. Mediation became a viable option after Operation Fath-ol-Mobin and a delegation—consisting of key diplomatic figures from the Muslim world—traveled to Tehran to negotiate a ceasefire, but to no avail. The Council of Expediency Discernment was established by order of Ayatollah Khomeini as a mediator at times of disagreement between Majles and the Guardian Council (the latter assigned with reconciling bills passed by the Majles with the Faith and the Constitution). The Nojeh Coup, aimed to topple the Islamic Republic was foiled. A key plotter, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, once the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic, was executed, and Shari’atmadari, a towering ayatollah with many followers, who was an informant, fell under house arrest.

Banu Mah Bibi, Hashemi Rafsanjani’s Mother

Stability and Challenge, 1362 [March 1983/March 1984]: As stability was restored on the domestic front, latent demands and differences resurfaced. According to Hashemi Rafsanjani, with Iran’s previous year’s victories on the battlefield, foreign countries felt compelled to come to the aid of Iraq (Paris delivered to Baghdad the then NATO-specific Super Etendard fighter jets.) The Army and the Revolutionary Guards continued to disagree over the running of the war. In his memoirs, Hashemi Rafsanjani frequently refers to the rift between these two military bodies and reiterates that if it had not been for cold relations between them, greater achievements could have been made. The left wing of the Society of Combatant Clerics split off to form the Association of Combatant Clerics. The left versus right division was also visible inside the cabinet, headed by then Prime Minister Mir Hossein Musavi. The Nationalist-Religious forces were gradually isolated in the political arena and the leaders of the Toudeh Party –Iran’s oldest Marxist party- were arrested on charges of espionage.

Towards Destiny, 1363 [March 1984/March 1985]: Iran prepared itself for the ‘final operation’ of the war. Iraq -its war machine lubricated by both the Western and Eastern blocs- flexed its muscles in its conflict with Iran. The Iraqi army employed chemical weapons, in their first use since the end of World War I, and Baghdad decided to attack cities and cargo ships to foil Iran’s final operation. The Party of the Islamic Republic -a conglomeration of left and right, radical and moderate, and different classes- had to call off its activities to curtail the widening fissure between its members. Iran endured international pressure as Iraq’s propaganda machine functioned forcefully and effectively, and the image of a dovish, secular Iraq was easier sold to the international community as compared to what was assumed to be a radical and fundamentalist Iran. Financial pressures multiplied, and ultimately influencing Iran’s decision to accept Resolution 598, according to Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Demonstrations in Tehran against Mal-Veiled Women July 1984

(1)     After the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran, Hashemi has been appointed (or elected) as member of the Supreme Council of Revolution, speaker of the Majles (parliament), head of the Supreme Council of Defense (charged with handling the war with Iraq), president, head of the Council of Experts (assigned with monitoring the Supreme Leader’s performance and selection of the future leader), and Council for Expediency Discernment (charged with resolving differences between the Majles and the Guardian Council).


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