Iranian Cleric Rift Becomes Open

Thousands of Iranians who believed their votes had been stolen by President Ahmadinejad in the recent election crowded the streets to hear the voice of cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who was delivering a Friday prayer service. Shouts of “freedom freedom” echoed in the air even as police and the dreaded Basiji thugs patrolled the streets or hurled tear gas as those shouting for freedom. In his sermon which was broadcast nationally Rafsanjani reprimanded the clerical leadership for failing to ensure there was a fair election and also for their brutal attacks on innocent Iranians who simply wanted democracy to be practiced. “Doubt has been created” about the election, he said. “There is a large portion of the wise people who say they have doubts. We need to take action to remove this doubt.”

At the core of what Rafsanjani said was “where people are not present or their vote is not considered, that government is not Islamic.” He called upon the Guardian Council to seize an “opportunity to unite the people and regain their trust.” It is still unclear as to the meaning of the speech. There is no question it represents a challenge to Ayatollah Khamenei and his side kick, Ahmadinejad. There is no doubt only someone of the stature of Rafsanjani could get away with such words. Will the words fall on deaf ears or will there be an intelligent response?