Rafsanjani: the end of an era between Foundations and nuclear

Rafsanjani: the end of an era between Foundations and nuclear

Giuseppe Acconcia | Journalist focusing on the Middle East
With its former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran lost a moderate politician and key businessman in its recent political history. A pragmatic man who managed to reconcile relations with the powerful Foundations and who led the country, along with the other negotiators, to the fundamental Vienna agreement

On January 8, 2017, former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani passed away. One of the leaders of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Rafsanjani was president of the Islamic Republic from 1989 to 1997, key years for the stabilization of the country following the Iran-Iraq war and the death of Imam Khomeini. Rafsanjani later served as chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, called upon to settle disputes between Parliament and the Guardian Council, and was nominated for the presidency of the Republic in 2005. Hassan Rouhani remembered the leader of his political party with these words: Rafsanjani ''demonstrated great courage at all stages of the Islamic Revolution and during the reconstruction era after the war against Iraq''. With Rafsanjani, Iran has also lost a key figure in both its commitment to the negotiations for signing the agreement on the nuclear issue, reached in Vienna in July 2015, and in its consolidated economic relations within the country and with Asia.

Relationship with the Foundations

Hassan Rouhani: "Demonstrated great courage at all stages of the Islamic Revolution and the reconstruction era after the war against Iraq"

Rafsanjani was one of the most important businessmen in post-revolutionary Iran and a key figure within the Foundations system. The boyand are an essential tool for the stability of the Islamic Republic in economic policy. They are linked to the bazaar merchants through the Islamic Coalition Council, led by Rafsanjani’s technocrats. For years, the president of this body was Asgaroladi, a notable politician of the Motalefè group which, between the 1990s and 2000s, supported former president Rafsanjani. This reveals the close relationship there has always been between the Foundations and the Rafsanjani family. Thanks to these links, the former president was able to control a large part of Iran’s trade with China and India and access a huge portion of the proceeds from oil sales. Moreover, the religious oligarchy holding the political power has widespread interests in various Foundations in Iran. According to some analysts, over 60% of Iran’s GDP comes from the proceeds of these real businesses. In fact, although the foundations qualify as non-profit entities, they are involved in many business activities. Additionally, the subsidies distributed to the poor and to the families of the victims of the Iran-Iraq war depend on the Foundations: they have, therefore, become a sort of permanent social system that forms the social base of the approval of the regime.

A leading role in the agreement on the nuclear issue

Rafsanjani was also a pragmatic mediator. The former president, one of the key players in the early years of Islamic Republic, was one of the founders of the main political movement that supported Khomeini, the Islamic Republican Party (IRP, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin). He was also one of the few Iranian politicians to accept the resolution of the UN Security Council that ended the war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988). For years, the top Iranian politician led the Servants of Reconstruction party. This formation appeared on the political scene in 1996. They were called ''technocrats'' because they pursued economic reforms for the modernization of the country. Among their ranks are businessmen and members of the industrial middle class. Even current President Hassan Rouhani is one of the leading figures of this political formation. Rafsanjani’s last-minute withdrawal from his candidacy to the 2013 presidential elections, having harshly criticized the second term of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, together with the support provided by Khatami’s reformists, paved the way for the victory of the moderates. The two Rafsanjani presidencies had supported openings in economic policy and the end of the country’s isolation. At that stage, the more extremist religious conservatives were being gradually transferred to the Foundations, the paramilitary forces and the judiciary. Therefore, with the inauguration of Obama’s administration in the United States and the promised rapprochement with Tehran, Rafsanjani, together with chief negotiator Javad Zarif, was one of the key supporters of the Vienna agreement and of Iran’s return to the global market. With Rafsanjani, Iran has lost a politician and key businessman in its recent political history. His death came on the eve of a very complex season in terms of bilateral relations with the United States, which could lead to a new confrontation with the Iranian authorities following the election of Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the agreement with Iran. Only recently, on December 2, the Republicans focused on imposing new sanctions by Washington against Tehran for the next ten years, despite the entry into force of the Vienna agreement. However, the political legacy of moderation and pragmatism that Rafsanjani has left has already paved the way to a political class that has proven to be able to effectively negotiate the end of international measures against Iran. However, only the next presidential elections in May 2017 will establish whether the former president’s disappearance from the political scene will mark a strengthening of the ultra-conservative members.

Thanks to these links with the foundations, the former president was able to control a large part of Iran's trade with China and India and access a huge portion of the proceeds from oil sales