9-Jan-17 World View — Iran’s ‘moderate pragmatist’ Hashemi Rafsanjani dies at age 82

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This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Iran’s ‘moderate pragmatist’ Hashemi Rafsanjani dies at age 82
  • Is Rafsanjani’s death a victory for Iran’s hardliners?

Iran’s ‘moderate pragmatist’ Hashemi Rafsanjani dies at age 82

Hashemi Rafsanjani (L) shares a laugh with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, under a photo of the original Supreme Leader, Rouhollah Khomeini.  All three fought together in the 1979 revolution.
Hashemi Rafsanjani (L) shares a laugh with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, under a photo of the original Supreme Leader, Rouhollah Khomeini. All three fought together in the 1979 revolution.

Iran is mourning the death of 82 year old Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, born in 1934, and a key figure in Iran’s Great Islamic revolution of 1979. He was jailed several times by the Shah of Iran during the 1960s-70s for his political activism, and then after the revolution he became the second most powerful man in Iran, behind Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, who ruled Iran as Supreme Leader until his death in 1989.

Khomeini’s chosen successor was Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader. After Rafsanjani was passed over for Supreme Leader, his star began to fade, although he was elected to the presidency from 1989 to 1997.

Politicians in Iran are generally categorized into three groups:

  • At one extreme are the extremely hard-line “principlists,” who insist on adhering to the “principles” of the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution. Khamenei and the other old geezer survivors of the 1979 revolution are ususally principlists. Generally, they represent the older generation, the survivors of the 1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. They impose strict social laws, such as requiring headscarves, forbidding unrelated male-female couples in public, no street music in public, and so forth. Many are opposed to the nuclear deal, and want to resume nuclear weapons development. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also in this group.
  • At the other extreme are the “reformists,” who are usually members of the younger generations that grew up after the revolution. They are willing to accept the religious precepts of the revolution, but they are demanding that the social restrictions like those described above be reversed. Internationally, they can be described as pro-Western and even pro-American. They like Western clothes and music, and they have nothing against Israel. However, some anti-Americanism is increasing because they believe that America has reneged on its promises to remove all sanctions after agreement was reached on the nuclear deal.
  • In the middle are the “moderates” or “pragmatists,” who are often as hardline as the principlists, but who are in favor of gradual reforms. Internationally, they are opposed to Western and American values, but they believe that it’s necessary to make some minimal concessions, as necessary, to make Iran less isolated. Rafsanjani was a moderate, and so is Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani.

There was a serious split between Rafsanjani and Khamenei after the 2009 presidential elections, when young people were protesting, and there was blood running in the streets because Iran’s security forces were massacring students and other protesters. Khamenei wanted the security forces to be completely unleashed, so they could kill, torture, rape, jail and bash anyone they wanted, with impunity. Rafsanjani wanted to permit peaceful protests, and wanted the jailed protesters to be released. As a result of the split between Rafsanjani and Khamenei, two of Rafsanjani’s children were jailed on separate charges. Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, got herself into even more legal trouble while on leave from prison by visiting a leader of Iran’s persecuted Bahai religious minority. Mehr News (Tehran) and BBC (28-May-2016)

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Is Rafsanjani’s death a victory for Iran’s hardliners?

Many analysts are calling Rafsanjani’s death a victory for Khamenei and the hardline principlists, because he will no longer be able to exert moderating pressure on them. That’s one way of looking at the situation.

The other way of looking at it is that it’s a victory for the young reformists, because he will no longer be able to exert a moderating pressure on them. In other words, in this view Rafsanjani was a powerful buffer between the two extremes, and without him they will both be free to pursue more radical policies. His death might even be the trigger for an Awakening era climax.

Generational Dynamics cannot predict short-term politics, but in many cases it can predict long-term trends, and in this case the long-term trend is clear. The old hardline geezers are dying off, and the young reformists are growing in number and gaining power.

As I’ve pointed out many times, Iranian college students started holding pro-Western and pro-American protests in the late 1990s, and continuing into the 2000s. These protests were quashed by Khamenei, who ordered the security forces to bash any students that expressed any opposition opinions.

But by the year 2017, those students are now 30-40 years old, and they’re increasingly in positions of power, making reformist decisions and implementing reformist policies. And by the way, this is also true within the ranks of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

By contrast, the old geezer hardliners are dying off or are becoming senile, and are less and less able to exert decisions as they used to. Rafsanjani was a moderate and a pragmatist, but he was also well-respected by everyone, and could influence moderation in both extremes. Without his moderating influence, we can expect the generational differences between the reformists and the principlists.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Iran is in a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s, characterized by a “generation gap,” and a generational clash between the hardline survivors of the last generational crisis war (WW II in America’s case) and the generations growing up after that war. This political clash almost always ends up in a victory for the younger generation, as the older generation retires and dies off. In America, the Awakening era climax was the resignation of Richard Nixon, which signaled a victory of the Boomers over the GI and Silent generations that had survived WW II. In Iran, no such Awakening era climax has not yet occurred, but it’s 100% certain that it’s coming.

As I’ve been writing for years, Iran, will be the West’s allies during the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war. Generational Dynamics predicts that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, the US, Japan, India, Iran and Russia will be allied again China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries. Mehr News and Guardian (London)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Shah of Iran, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hassan Rouhani, Faezeh Hashemi, Bahai, principlists, moderates, reformists
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

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5 years ago

“there was blood running in the streets because Iran’s security forces were massacring students and other protesters”??!!
O come on! How would you describe Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians?

That’s gross.

5 years ago

Are you naive or playing stupid? Did you ever read such facts which even Jews like Chomsky cannot ignore but only abhor?

You want a link? Here is a link: https://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/7/a_hideous_atrocity_noam_chomsky_on.

How can you even come close to using such inflamed accusations against the Iranians while ignoring the monstrous elephant that Israel is when it comes to genocide?

5 years ago
Reply to  John Xenakis

Your response is very disingenuous on many facets.

(1) Iran’s leaders did not just “turn police loose on peaceful protesters demanding that the leader step down.” And since when has a bunch of underage students decided, in any country, who is the rightful leadership of that country? Where is the respect for due process, “democratic rules of electoral process,” etc.?
(2) If that were any kind of model, why have WE not seen the US leadership changed by the street demonstrations of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement? Instead of mass arrests and extreme brutality?
(3) Those selfless students were naïve (as was shown later), lost puppies, incited, induced, paid by Israel (and of course, the CIA) – precisely to deflect attention from their own real atrocities against the Palestinians.
(4) Can you actually present some numbers? Verified numbers, and not “fake numbers.” How many students were actually killed? 2? 5? 10? When do you call some casualties “collateral damage” and when do you call them “genocide”? At what threshold do you draw the line?

Chomsky is loony? Ha, ha, ha. You should have earned half the respect he commands.

5 years ago
Reply to  John Xenakis

Ha, ha, ha: . . . “May have died” . . . “Woman claims” . . . “anecdotal evidence suggests” . . .” Suspicions have been fuelled after one woman” . . . “there could be” . . . Ha, ha, ha . . .

Are you serious?! This is the usual garbage today known as “fake news”. Go get a real job!

5 years ago
Reply to  John Xenakis

That’s the best you can show for an MIT-trained analyst? It proves you are just a pathetic propagandist. What a disapointment! Sad.