London, 13 Jan – Much sooner than expected, in fact, during his funeral, the consequences of Rafsanjani’s death appeared, turning the memorial into a fight between the rival bands.
The Rafsanjani-Rouhani band chanted, “these too many people are here for their love for Akbar”, while Khamenei’s responded, “these too many people are here for their love for leader”.
Meanwhile, the crowd, taking advantage of the divide between the two bands, chanted, “Dictator, Dictator”, and, “Our state television, our shame”, as well as “political prisoners should get released.”
The unrest reached beyond Tehran, as people in Mashhad chanted “Down with Khamenei” along with the mutual rhetoric between the two bands.
In their January 13 article the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reports that the conflict between the rivals began during the first hour following Rafsanjani’s death.
There was conflict over his burial place, first speaking of Qom, or Mashhad, but eventually Rafsanjani’s body was buried next to Khomeini’s tomb which displays the behind-the-scene quarrels.
News agencies belonging to Khamenei’s followers reported that Khamenei attended Rafsanjani’s house and offered condolences to his family. However, the report was removed from their websites within hours and was later denied altogether.
In his message regarding Rafsanjani’s death, Khamenei refused to use the word ‘Ayatollah’. This title was commonly used by state radio and television in reference to Rafsanjani. Instead, Khamenei referred to Rafsanjani only as ‘Hojatoleslam’, which is lower in rank than Ayatollah, according to Mullahs’ hierarchy. Khamenei didn’t address Rafsanjani’s special relations with Khomeini, either, only mentioning Rafsanjani’s ‘opulent intelligence and rare intimacy in the past years’, which may have referred to the taunts by his own agents, who accused Rafsanjani of being an imbecile, amnesiac, and absentminded.
“The answer is that the Mullahs’ regime is one with dual texture and structure, a disparate mix of an ultra-reactionary, middle-aged head called ‘vilayat-e faqih’ and a capitalism-dependent body with deep conflict of interests,” writes the NCRI.
This contrast was apparent in a confrontation between Rafsanjani and Khamenei, during which Rafsanjani represented the dependent, capitalist section. With Rafsanjani’s death, this section has not vanished, nor has it renounced its interests, resulting in the regime’s duality is still being in place, rather than being dissolved.
Ironically, the death of Rafsanjani, someone who could mitigate the conflict of interests, this contradiction has become colored with conflict more than ever. This is the same factor that has allegedly frightened the regime, and their fear is reflected in state media, particularly in those close to Rafsanjani’s band.
According to the NCRI, “This concern will inevitably occur to all regime’s forces, especially now that Rafsanjani is gone, forcing them to detach from the regime out of distress, at a time when regime is surrounded by social, economic and regional crises. A concern for which there’s no answer, since this is an expired regime which has no future. A fact Rafsanjani was very well aware of and fell to the ground fearing the regime’s prospect. By the way, was this the same fear that took his life?”
In his message, Khamenei pointed to ‘disagreements and differences in religious approaches’ between himself and Rafsanjani, but didn’t mention the common term ‘goodness is all we know of him’ while reading the funeral prayer. This was widely reflected in cyber space, which forced the regime to deny the news regarding the repeat of the funeral prayer, who stated that the prayer was fully read by Khamenei.
With praise such as, “with the lack of Rafsanjani, I don’t know anyone that …” Khamenei sent a message to Rouhani not to have high hopes of taking Rafsanjani’s place in the expediency council or other entities. This, while the media close to Rouhani are saying that Rouhani is the only one who can and must replace Rafsanjani.
Contrary to what some in Khamenei’s band are promising themselves, it’s becoming clear that Rafsanjani’s death has not reduced regime’s contradictions and conflicts, nor will it lead to more solidarity and unity within the regime. Instead, with lack of someone who could harness the ‘extremisms of both rival factions’, these contradictions will become out of control and follow a progressive path.
What is really frightening the regime, is not the very conflicts and contradictions within the regime, it’s the social repercussions, as the people seek the slightest gap to do what they did in 2009 — take to the streets and sweep away the regime with all its manifestations.
The question that arises regarding the conflict between rival bands is, when one side is beheaded, the war will normally be over in favor of the other side, but how is it that with Rafsanjani eliminated, not only is the war not over, but it is aggravating as well?