The Return of Rafsanjani
According to the Tehran based Parsine News Agency, Ayatollah Rafsanjani is preparing to embark next week on a seven day foreign trip. This is the longest foreign trip taken by any senior Iranian official. What is even more interesting is the destination: Iraq.
One of the main reasons behind the trip are the expected negotiations between Tehran and Washington. It is thought that Rafsanjani's trip will be used for consultations with Iran's allies there.
Whilst there, Rafsanjani is expected to outline Iran's position and to coordinate them with Iran's allies, whose influence is an important component in an array of bargaining chips which Tehran aims to present during its negotiations with Washington.
What is even more interesting is the fact that Supreme Leader Khamenei is dispatching Rafsanjani on this important mission, and not Ahmadinejad, nor any of his allies such as Saeed Jalili.
Can this be a sign that by excluding Ahmadinejad and his allies, Khamenei is already preparing Iran's foreign policy for his removal at the next elections? Or is this a sign that Khamenei is preparing to make Rafsanjani a major player in the all important US-Iran negotiations?
For now, the likeliest possibility is the latter. One should not forget that between all of Iran's senior politicians, when it comes to dealing with the US and the West, Rafsanjani is one of the most experienced. He was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Furthermore, as president, he was responsible for approaching the West and getting Hezbollah to release American hostages. Last but not least, through his vast business empire, Rafsanjani and his sons have come to deal with Western officials and businessmen on numerous occasions, and thus have extensive contacts.
Such qualifications seem to make Rafsanjani an ideal contributor. Now that the “Shark” is too old to run for president, he is likely to embrace his new role with much enthusiasm.
Meir Javedanfar runs the Middle East Analyst Blog