A Blog Written By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi
By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi-Roozonline,2007.07.23
While conflicting reports about the hard illness of 86-year-old ayatollah Meshkini who heads the Assembly of Experts on Leadership (Majlis Khobregan, which monitors the work of the leader of the Islamic regime) have appeared in the Iranian press over the past few days, the future of the president of the highest political agency in the Islamic Republic of Iran is the subject of the various political and media circles in Iran, regardless of the fate of the ayatollah leading it.
The latest news reports about the health of the ayatollah were dispatched by news agencies on Saturday. Dr Jaafar Aslani, the head physician of the medical group in charge of his health said that while the cleric’s health was in critical condition last Thursday, he had been transferred to the intensive care unit while his condition had not changed.
What seems to be accepted by the various informed sources is that no matter the outcome of the current conditions, the ayatollah will certainly not be in a position to lead the Assembly of Experts. The issue is so important in the political structure of the regime that already efforts are being made for the next step in this regard.
Under the current circumstances, the issues and tensions within the Assembly which seldom make it to the public are certainly expected to be exacerbated, once again, and the conflicts that did emerge during the fourth Assembly may once again come out into the open. Specifically, the 2 opposing views on the Velayat’e Faghih, i.e. the powers of the leader of the Islamic regime, will once again be the subject of contention. One view is led by Hashemi Rafsanjani while the other by Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and his followers. This despite the fact that there was yet another powerful cleric, ayatollah Khoshvaght, who suffered a serious defeat in the hidden competition for the Assembly, who remains a staunch supporter of the current administration and part of the Mesbah group. His family ties to ayatollah Khamenei too have added to his influence.
In that battle, Hashemi Rafsanjani tried to present a more earthly interpretation of the powers of the Velayat’e Faghih, which was attractive to the reformist thinking. Mesbah Yazdi on the other hand presented a more spiritual and divine political interpretation. He has come to be known to be the radical in his interpretation and views the leader as a single person while viewing the state as an administration, rather than one with republican principles. Rafsanjani expressly talked about a “council of leaders” rather than a single individual in that position, during the last round of open debates on the subject. Yazdi of course believes that the position is a divine one where the Faghih represents God and is appointed by Him, thus relegating the role of the Assembly of Experts to mere finding the person who qualifies for the position and introducing him to the public. Rafsanjani has also spoken of the Faghih being “elected” rather than “discovered” (a term that may signify selection) while the members of the Assembly too may err in their discovery process. In that round of politicizing, Yazdi’s group made every effort to eliminate Rafsanjani from the competition and even dropped his name as a candidate from its own list. A final candidates list for the Assembly that emerged and was supported by Jame’e Rohaniyate Mobarez (Assembly of Militant Clergy, a conservative grouping) and Jame Modaresin Hoze Elmie Qom (Teachers Association of Qom Theological Centre), contained the names of both Rafsanjani and Yazdi, while the latter publicly on one occasion protested about Rafsanjani’s name on it.
The internal elections for the leadership of the Assembly last year indicated that Rafsanjani’s popularity among the clerics is no less than that of Meshkini, whose condition remains obscure. So unless something happens from the outside the Assembly, one may expect the members to vote and elevate Rafsanjani to the leadership of the body.
Despite this, and while the two leading contenders for the position appear to be Rafsanjani and Mesbah Yazdi, another player who is close to Mesbah and remains the current second deputy of the Assembly, ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi should not be underestimated. The coming few days and weeks shall throw light on the future of the leadership of the assembly, as the elections for the Assembly draw closer, also determining the power positions inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.