The Guardian Council’s disqualification of Rafsanjani, as well as the courageous last-minute decision of “the Shark” to try and enter the presidential race was daring. It marked, perhaps, more than anything else the end of the attempts by Islamic Revolution veterans and its founders to affect Iran’s future and to revert it back to its path and away from clashes with the West.
Rafsanjani, who managed to persuade Khomeini to drink from the poisoned chalice, to end the war with Iraq and to rehabilitate Iran’s economy again tried to return to a position of power and convince Khameini’s successors to try and push ahead talks with the United States and improve its relations with Iran in the regional and international arena, to salvage the country’s economy from its crisis triggered by the previous government’s policies and to soften sanctions, as a stage in their lifting.
More accurately, Rafsanjani (78), who since the end of the Iran-Iraq War can be said to have been waging a fighting retreat against the gradual strengthening of the IRGC, once again failed in his latest attempt to contain the influence of the IRGC and to prevent them from completing the revolution within the Revolution.
Regardless of who is elected president, his impact of Iran’s foreign policies and economy will remain limited and in the hands of the Supreme Leader and the IRGC, which is increasingly capturing senior management and planning positions in Iran. From mayors, Majlis members, ministers and head of new economic concerns. “The IRGCs” were the ones on the eve of the Guardian Council decision who called the vetting body to not approve the seditionist Rafsanjani and welcomed the decision to disqualify him. According to opposition website, the IRGC (and other security entities) even intervened in the Guardian Council decision after most of its members approved Rafsanjani’s candidacy, in an attempt to quash the more than likely possibility of Rafsanjani’s election that would disrupt the balance of forces they were trying to establish. Kayhan newspaper, which is affiliated with the Supreme Leader, further claims that it was the “seditionists” and the reformists who undermined the results of the June 2009 presidential elections that spurred Rafsanjani to participate in the elections.
With the removal of Rafsanjani from the presidential race (there is a technical possibility that the Supreme Leader will intervene and circumvent the Guardian Council decision. Daughter of mythological leader Khomeini called on him to do just that), there remains Hassan Rouhani, who is also presented by most analysts as the Reformists hope. Rouhani served as Supreme Leader representative in the Supreme National Security Council and serves as member of the Council to this day. He is considered close to Khamanei. Rouhani currently serves as member of the Expediency Discernment Council and on the Assembly of Experts. Rouhani is also extremely close to Rafsanjani, and frequently consults with him on various issues. It was believed that if Rafsanjani would have been approved, Rouhani would have withdrawn his candidacy. In addition, he served as head of the nuclear negotiations team during the term of President Mohammad Khatami, during which Iran had reached temporary arrangements on the suspension of uranium enrichment of 20%. His critics, among the current leadership of Iran, frequently notes this in their condemnation of him as someone who failed to vehemently insist on Iran’s nuclear rights.
Rouhani may be perceived as a candidate of compromise. Many of those who fostered the hope that Rafsanjani would effect any change in Iran’s somber economic and international status will vote for Rouhani. Some may prefer not voting at all. The question of who will be Iran’s next president is not important. Iran is allegedly playing the game of democracy until the end (of the 686 candidates, only 8 were approved to run). The election of Rafsanjani, if he had been approved, could have injected interest into Iran’s political arena and its geo-strategic status. The election of Rouhani may be a less than optimal but still deserving option in light of the support he received from Rafsanjani and from the religious establishment close to the reformist current (Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei – who is perceived as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri’s candidate) and a significant percentage of the Iranian people who are yearning for change that will extract them from this dead end forced on them by the government’s policies and IRGC aggressiveness.
In the bottom line, the disqualification (again – after he failed in the elections against Ahmadinejad, who won Khamenei’s support in 2005) of Rafsanjani, who is still perceived among the current Iranian echelons (including the Supreme Leader) as a potential threat constitutes a kind of dangerous gamble by the Supreme Leader (or the IRGC). On the one hand – it might reinvigorate the “Iranian Street” that had been brutally suppressed after the protests following the forged 2009 elections, and who viewed Rafsanjani as a kind of savior to vote for Rouhani as someone who more than anyone represents Rafsanjani. On the other hand, to prove once and for all that Iran is establishing – on the IRGC – a new order and stability in which Rafsanjani and his successors (Rouhani) who still support ties with the West as part of the solution to Iran’s problems – have no room.
 Rafsanjani headed these two entities but was replaced on the Assembly of Experts by Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani in March 2011 and continues as head of the Expediency Discernment Council