Created: 12/1/1983

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Khamenei and Rafsanjani: Rivals for Power in Irani-


Khamenei and Rafsanjani: Rivals for Power in Iran

Khamenei and Rafsanjani: Rivals for Power in IranQ


Information analabli as oft&mtxr IQSi mu isrd In Ms report.

views of Iranian President Ali Khamenei and Majlis (Assembly) Speaker Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, Iwo of the most powerful leaders in Iran, strongly influence Iran's policies toward the war with Iraq, succession to Khomeini, the economy, and the United States. Khamenei and Rafsanjani derive much of Iheir authority from their close personal relationship with Ayalollah Khomeini. In addition, Khamenei, as President, controls much of the government's administrative apparatus. Rafsanjani. as Speaker of the Majlis, is in charge of the legislative arm of the government. Q

Not surprisingly, Khamenei and Rafsanjani are rivals for power. Neither is of sufficient clerical rank to directly succeed Khomeini, but each wants to be influential behind the scenes. Rafsanjani seems to favor Ayatollahore senior cleric who is currently the front-runner to succeed Khomeini. Reportedly Rafsanjani hopes to manipulate Montazeri. who is widely viewed in Iran as weak. President Khamenei, on the other hand, favors rulehree- or five-man council of senior clerics. Khamenei reportedly hopes lhatouncil would dilute Montazeri's power and limit Rafsanjani's ability lo manipulate policy.|

The personal conflict between the two men is aggravated by institutional rivalry. Since2 the office of Ihc Presidency has been strengthened by Khamenei, enabling him to begin consolidating his authority within the regime. At the same time, Ihc Majlis under Rafsanjani's leadership has become an influential lawmaking body, and Rafsanjani has emerged as the most influential personality in Iran after Ayalollah Khomeini. The two have criticized each other publicly, and Ayatollah Khomeini has been forced to intervene to limit their rivalry. He permits neither toecisive advantage over ihe othcj

In contrast to their differences over the succession, the positions of Khamenei and Rafsanjani on other issues such as the war, the economy, and foreign policy arc similar. They both favor centralization of the economy and have recently moderated their private positions on Iran's war policy. They are both hostile toward the United States. They probablyolerant attitude toward the Soviets and closer cooperation with Moscow on economic and military matters as long as there is no strategic military understanding or massive presence of Soviel experts in Iran. Both support the "export of the revolution" by means of propaganda and subversion, although Khamenei is slightly less radical than Rafsanjani on this issue]

The rivalry between Khamenei and Rafsanjani has important implications for the future of Iran and,esult, for US policy in the Persian Gulf. We believe it is likely lhat the clerics. Rafsanjani. and Khamenei will workutually acceptable division of power after Khomeini's death, at least in the short term, and that Iran's policies will remain much the same as under themooth succession is likely because no cleric will defy Khomeini's written will soon after his death and all the clerics know that an intense succession struggle could destroy their hold on power. Ainfluenced by Rafsanjani and Khamenei could moderate its foreign policy stance slightly as the two men become more confident in their ability lo retain power and in their ability to work together. Eventually their hostility toward the United Suites could lessen if they found it expedient, but neither man is strong enough to alter unilaterally Iran's relations with the United States. Relations with the USSR will probably depend on factors beyond the control of either man such as Soviei support for Iraq and for Iranian dissidents and Soviet actions in Afghanistan.!-

In the less likely event that ihe two men do not workutually satisfactory sharing of power. Iran is likely to experience serious political turmoil. While the Ayatoilah is alive, he can keep their rivalry in check.

Khamenei and Rafsanjani: Rivals for Power in Iran

Ali Khamenei and Maflts (Assembly) Speaker Ali Akbar Rafianjani are two of the most important people inlerical regime. Their views on the succession, foreign policy, the war with Iraq, and Ihe economyignificant impact on the course of the Islamic Republic. Their influence will increase after Ayaiollah Khomeini dies or retires, although wc do not believe lhat either will succeed him. Both are middle-level clerics, one step below ayatollah and too juniorucceed Khomeini directly. At present we believe senior cleric Hussein All Mon-tazeri is the most likely successor lo Khomeini.j

There are senior clerics and revolutionaryoutside the governmenl whose authority and influence al times exceed lhat of Rafsanjani and Khamenei. Sinceowever, President Khamenei has had some success in establishing ernment control over revolutionary organizations.

Rafsanjani joined Khomeini's household ai an early age and was raised thcrc?^

ecord of anli'Shah activity and his imprisonment by the Shah give him excellent revolu-lionary credentials.*!

this situation has incrcasca personal conuicis between Khamenei and Rafsanjani, whose relations already aggravated by institutional rivalries.

Power Bases

Rafsanjani. Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, we believe, is an ambitious and opportunistic politician who derives much of his authority from his close personalwiih Ayatollah Khomeini. He benefits from real or at least popularly perceived family relationships wiih Khomeini. An unconfirmed report indicates lhal

ole as one of Ihe leaders of Tehran's Friday prayers and his position as spokesman for Iran's Supreme Defense Council give him important forums to influence policy and publicuring lhe pastonths Rafsanjani has led Friday prayersimes, far more than any other Iranian leader.

Rafsanjani has made Iheubberstampunder Ihe Shah, an influential lawmaking body and another forum in which he can influence events. Analysis of Majlis proceedings indicates (hat as Speaker he controls lhe_direction of debate and has il review of!

Rafsanjani helped found the Islamic Republic Party, the only legal party in Iran, andember of its Administrative and Central Committees. Lack of press coverage of his parly activities suggests he is not active in parly functions, but his membership gives him further access Io additional power centers. By controlling party funds he has considerable say in who receives significant party positions, according to an American researcher on modern Iran

Khamenei. Khamenei's revolutionary credentialsto Rafsanjani's. He, too, is close tostudied under the Ayatollah during the

alsoistory of anti-Shah activity. He was

arrested in theor aiding the anti-Shah Fedayeen. He participated in propaganda activities among theological students in Mash had and was

influential in forming the ideological position of the

Islamic Republic Party, according to press reports.

Sources of Influence for Rafsanjani and Khamenei



CiDinci I

Intel! licence

vCUyalc (mill ISupre iw Religiuuf leader) Avunllari Khomeini

Much of Khamenei's authority derives from hisas chief executive, which gives him overall control of the government's administrative apparatus. As President he is responsible for carrying outlaws and for organizing the relationshiplhe executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. He also can veto bills and nominate the Prime Minislerj

Khamenei was reelected secretary general of the islamic Republic Party in3 andeat on its Central Committee but, according lo Iranian press reports, came in second to Rafsanjani in the voting. Khamenei controls the Islamic Republic Parly newspaper. Islamic Republic, which be has used to attack his enemies and advance both the regime's policies and


also has an important forum to influence policy as Tehran's Friday prayerhat he succeeded Ayalollahs Friday prayer

' RafinnjfiDi i* only one ol meril joint Friday prayer leaden ia

' Ayaiuiian Moniareri holds some of Ayalollahr ihe judiciary and Ke>oluiiooary Guard but holds ne official JpcBiliin in ihe j


Wc believe lhal ihc rivalry between the two men that has developed since the revolution is mainly over power rather than ideology. The competitionivalry between the executive andbranches of government. Khamenei, at times, has publicly accused the Majlis of hurting government policy because of its slowness in passing bills.has publicly complained that some of the bills presented to ihe Majlis are poorly conceived!-

Succession Issue. We believe the power struggle between Khamenei and Rafsanjani is centered on the Question of who should succeed Ayatollah Khomeini and the form of ihe regime after he dies T

political advantage Ihey positions on the succession issue that often contradict their previous stands Ayatollah Montazeri has been presumed by Iranians to be Khomeini's choice as heir. Khamenei and Rafsanjani, while supporting tbe conceptlerical monopoly OR political leadership, have been described by different sources as both supporting and opposing Montazeri as heir. Public statement by both men suggest that Rafsaniani supports Montazeri. while Khameneihree- to five-man council of senior clerics which could possibly be dominated by ayatollahs. such as Meshkini and Musavi-Ardabili. from Azar-bayjan. Khamenei's ancestral province We believe Rafsanjani supports Montazeri largely because he believes Montazeri has Ayatollah Khomeini'sRafsanjani also hopes to be able to manipulate the situation if Montarcii becomes leadcrj

in3 by the Council of Experts, which is touccessor to Khomeini, suggestompromise over the succession may have been reached. The Council elected Ayatollah Meshkini. whose views on the suceenion arc similar toas chairman Rafsanjani. ho*ever. wasas one of two deputy chairmen. In addition, wc believe Khomeini'* will callsingle successor who should call on the Council of Expert! forQ

These two move* have emabtiihcd the bansower-sharing arrangement.]

i we oeneve

Khamenei, by virtue of bis support for Meshkini and

The Succession Issue

course of the Islamic Republic dependsarge extent on how the clerics manage the succession to Khomeini. We believe Khomeini's willmooth succession, at least in the short term, because no cleric will be able tohomeini's written orders immediately following his death.mooth succession is also increased by the establishment of the Council of Experts and by the clerics' knowledge that their control of thewould be threatened by an intensive succession struggle. Political opportunism and the theological and historical precedents lhat define clerical ideology encourage compromise among the clerics^

In2 the clerical regime elected anan Assembly of Experts whose Job it Is to choose Khomeini'snder ihe Constitution. Ihe Assembly may select either one clericouncil of three or five clerics}

factions in the Revolutionary Guard and toin the regular Army. The organizationsaci as constraints on each other, and ihe professional military seems less Inclined than the Guard to political involvement. If splits in clerical ranksreakdown in regime authority, ambitious leaders in both ihe Guard and the Army would probably attempt to align themselves with their various clerical associatesid for power, increasing the possibilitiesescent into anarchy.

We believe the grand ayatollahs may enter theprocess to modify ihe regime's ideology in favor of curbing clerical involvement In running the government. They have stayed in the background for the most partut recently grandShirazi. ayatollahs in Mashhad and Esfahan. and possibly even grand Ayatollah Khoi havedemonstrations against the government incities, according to the Iranian media. We believe such activities, if sustained, would challenge the activist clerics and would be especiallyafter Khomeini's deathi

Khomeini's overarching authority, therehance that the clerics' disputes could become uncon-tainable. No other cleric in Iran has Khomeini's stature of unopposed authority, and Shiismradition of violent clashes between rival clerical groups white one dominant faction is being replaced by another. We believe such clashes could trigger wider violence lhat would threaten theht

Islamic Republic. Many clerics retain close ties lo

We do not believe ihe Soviets would becomeuccession process unless thereotal breakdown in authority. While some leading clerics may have ties with the Sovieis, there is no evidence lhal any would attempt to or could use Soviet powerurther theiroviet connection would be the kiss of death io any cleric. His opponents would use itajor rallying point to remove him from power.

position as President, will retain enough power, however, to balance Rafsanjani. We believe part of the deal may involve elevating both Rafsanjani and Khamenei to the rank of ayatollah when Khomeini dies. Both arc having religious studies written in their name that must be accepted by the senior ayatollahs before the two contenders can assume that rankl

Positions on Other Major Issues

The positions thai Rafsanjani and Khamenei take on other issues, such as the war with Iraq, foreign policy, and Ihe economy, appear similar if not identical. Their views do not always accord with their radical

Puhlic Positions on the War

Qvtsiion of war dad puce I* up hi Khomeini.0

0>ciihrow ofraqi people't reipomibiliiY. October

Peace condition* now include repatriation of Iraqi eiiles.2

Iran waul* Saddam tried and SI SO billion iaeace condition* now include repatriation of Iraqi eii'is Will remain ia tiate of war until reparation* guaranteed. May

stalemates aad Iraq aiej Turkey lo media ft,1

Ncgotiationi for ccate-flreout of qecriron ol long at IraqId Iran,I

Irorin agnvt loIslamic Conference. IN. andmediation plan

Not coaceracd with money or war damage but if Ba'theven without Saddam, he will preu foe reparations. Inv possible that we will way a! border. The wayerusalem It through Karbala.2

Irantlon, UgbulnM,2

negotiation with Saddam under any circumstance.ihould be tried1

ule* majoruly

Wmoni makes otowsr statements

No ccate-lire ibat doet notaad puntta aggressor. Protrcat toward peace almcal impossible. Conditions fwnconditional(I) ponishaaii of and admission lhal Iraq it ajirtv aor, (J)1

Invasion to stop ibelling ofto geto open road to Jcruialem. Iran neodt no media lion since condition! remain the same.2


Reparaiiont can be paid in in-MaUmeats. Aug2

Rcqucti lhal UaE ute al! it* effort*op war. Islamicmission had no new polatt. Ceatc-firc onlyet.2

conditions: (I) in banalayment ot re para1

lgiers Accord valid and should be

If enemy remain* in Iran coo-no* *top ourtclxt from1 ling Iraq. Reserve ibe right lo go anywhere. December

So long ai Iraqi troops In Iran, aocepting peace and com pro-mite will bring mticry io Iran,1

QjfiMtnn of war damage and puniihiog aggressor will aot prevent coding war once Iraqi troop* withdraw, December

We wantchieve our right*ay which will not make millions of Iraqis homeless,2

Iranian units cross border, No-


Mediation-delegation! should not come unless they hateew


We retpect mediation effect* bclag takenchieve our rights. We will go as far a* il lake* to tilence enemy artillery.2

Reject* Idarrac Conference Peace proposal,2

forof Iraqirial and punishment of Iraq; (JJIran in upturned righu,2

Mcot important thing iiacd Ba'th be punished. Will gam rtghtt by force Could infiltrate Iraqi territory If wished. If eoce lermt notweight tout do not aim at en*

tertrig Iraq.2

Peace viable only -hen mot en-con raging ot2

'No draigroraqi territory, identification and puniihmt nt of aggrettot muu be done by world'* wise men and peace lay cn.2

Law decline operatic* launched. Period of grace granted by Iran wat construed at weakness. Offensive will noi ttop until Gate of War is tealcd War bat entered new ttagc. Saddam not our main enemy, the United Stales Is. If we ttay on oar border we can ttill defeat Iraq.3

We will noi abandon cceditioaa Tor peace. Withdrawal of Iraqi force* no longer main condition. Mala condition it Saddam be puniihed. We cannot pay any attention to Saddam or hit!

Iranian people will never Itncel downmposed war,3

Public Positions on the War (continued)

for casualties and supporteduction in fighiine."/


Optra mm limited U> avoidwe aft trfUfj

ai tif at we tod

Manrroaai aaaaM ha amacd

aM ih* caul ebftctnt of

Oat war. Va> II)

Khmuipmran> .ia(r-

iber aiioe of tbe people ot lr*a, Wc win in-ItMily oar 'ttiilanre. Jtne


At Jong at Otmuadi not met weooatlnue aai. We ihould mate Ramadan mote blcnod by increasing rcadmen to cnub enemy,)

reported group affiliation, or social class. Khamenei sometimes appcurs more idealistic and dogmatic, but when necessary, pragmatism prevails. Rafsanjani's positions appear to shift according to the political climate]

far. Both men appear to be in general agreement oa Iran's strategy in ita war with Iraq. Throughout most of the war Rafsanjani aad Khamenei have publicly spokenegotiated settlement and repeatedly warned Ihe Arab Gulf states not to aid Iraq.said in1 that the war shouldeenihad (holynd in2 he

said the war could end only with the defeat and

humiliation of Iraq's President Saddam Husayn.J

In the springoth men publicly moderated their positions, probablyesult of heavy casualties and growing popular disaffection for ihe conflict. Khamenei's statements indicated support for reduced fighting andegotiated settlement.also made statements that showed increased

Khamenei and Rafsanjani on Relations With the United States


"Our archenemy is the Unitede will never tolerate thai superpower. he one lhat Is at the top af our list of enemies ts the United Slates."

"We have no plan whatsoever towith or get near the Unitedope our government will remain on thisforever."

Tehran's Relations With Moscow

Soviet-Iranian relations are at their lowest level since lhe Islamic revolutionpen polemicsthe two countries have become standard fare. The Khomeini regime has arrested leaders of ihe Tudeh on charges of spying for lhe KGB. closed the of/icesariety of Soviei organizations In Iran, and harassed the Soviet Embassy in Tehran. The Kremlin has swung Us support in lhe war lo Iraq and has become less concerned about Tehran's reaction to Soviet operations against Afghan insurgents near the Iranian borderi

As long as Khomeini remains in power, Sovietin Iran will be minimal. Iran under Khomeini has become more dependent on Soviei and East European trade and transit routes, bul this has not led to significant Soviet political leverage.reluctance to deal directly wiih the Sovietsajor scale is shared by most leading clerics in Iran, including Rafsanjani and Khamenei. After Khomeini dies, policies could moderate slightly if Ihe Line of the Imam faction increases its power. Close relations beiween Iran and the Soviei Union while lhe clerics rule, however, are highly unlikelyl

Wc believe lhat neither leader has been co-opted by lhe Soviets. Both have repeatedly condemned lhe USSR for its invasion of Afghanistan and arededicated to Islam, which has little in

common with Communism. They probablyolerant attitude toward tbe Soviets and closerwith Moscow on economic and military matters as long as there is no strategic military understanding or massive presence of Soviet experts in Iran.j^

Export of the Revolution. Both men favor exporting the Islamic Revolution by means of propaganda and subversion. Analysis of their public statementsthat, like Ayatollah Khomeini, both men see the world in terms of oppressor and oppressed anddissemination of the revolution's social message to non-Muslim countries as well as aid to "liberation movements'] |


"Iran shall convey the voice of revolution to the peoples of the world in everyway."


"The export of the revolution Isthai we cannot prevent."

"The question of unity (against imperialism and Marxism/ Is not confined lo Africa and the Islamic countries."

on Muslim Unity

"We are friendly wiih Muslim and non-Muslim stales as long as they do not attack us."

"The Islamic nation (Iron) does not regard its destiny as separate from lhe destiny of the world's Muslims."

"Purity and brotherhood link us to our Sunni brothers."

"There Is no difference between Shia and Sunni."

"Iran seeks friendship, understanding, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence wiih all the Persian Gulf slates."

appears willing to moderate his position on (his issue, however, according to his publicHe has said publicly lhat Iran is against using sabotage to export the revolution and thai Iran's support for liberation movements is mostly spiritual. Khamenei stated in2 that Iran wanted close relations with Turkey, Pakistan, and the Gulf states, but he has also called on the Gulf Arabs to overthrow their rulers and establish Islamic governments. Hearticularly active advocate of close economic and political ties with Turkey. He publicly rules out relations only with the United States, Israel. Jordan, France, and Egypt. He istrong advocate of close Sunni/Shia relations, and while calling on Muslim governments to follow Iran's example, he

land reform, centralized supervision of commerce, and centralized planning. Neither appears io favor sudden, radical changes, however, preferring to use bureaucratic and constitutional processes for change. They also are usually pragmatic on the issues of development, favoring foreign technical advice when necessary and when using it does not ihrcaienindependence. Rafsanjani favors an amnesty for exiled Iranian economic experts to encourage their return. Both favor employing and training Iranian technical experts even if they are not fervently Islam-

H 1

bas been less outspoken on exporting tbe revolution than Khamenei, probably because it isajor issue for him. His record on other issues, however, leads us to believe lhat he also would moderate his position if he found it expedient io do so

Economy. Both leaders favor centralization of the economy and stress that priority should be given to solving the country's economic problems. They favor

Rafsanjani onocialist Economy"

"islam does not approve of poverty and great wealth."

'When the Hidden Imam returns, people will receive to the extent they need and will contribute to the extent they are able."

"The high cost and unjust distribution ofs the last hope of the counterrevolution."

"Ownership of property does not mean one can misuse it."

K ha me nei's poson on economics has been more consistent. He considers economicajor goal: "Our most major concern is currently theDevelopment must be balanced, however, and not depend on oil revenues or foreign imports. He strongly favors industrial and planning centralization and redistribution of wealth, and he apparentlywith Rafsanjani. at least some of the lime, on this issue. In2 he praised Majlisin goyezjiment economic programs and budget planning!


It* Hojjos'iyrh helot, faror* urici Islam* law. we of Wctrm lechrtotoxy to help the economy, limited Clerical intervention io icculir affairs, and ciport ot (he rerotutioo-ojjatiyeh opposes major economic reformingle lucoessorhomeini TV liar of ike Imam empoatirrt the more rnolvikiniry aspect* of Iran's revolution and favors jood rclstiors with Iheentralized economy,nglecc>tor to Khomeini.


Khomeini appears to try to balance Rafsanjani and Khamenei, permitting neither loecisive advantage over the other.^

With Rafsanjani apparently in ascendancy by the endhomeini began countering Rafsanjani's power by building up Khamenei Rafsanjani was hurt on the Tudeh issue during the spring3 and, probably at Khomeini's insistence, declared publicly in3 thatole for him (Khamenei)ote

for the Imam, the clergy, theKhomeini,

inraised Khamenei, sayiag "you should not think you can find anyone in all tbeikeho ia commuted to Islam and who is trying to serve this nation


While Khomeini remains alive, bis ability to balance Rafsanjani and Khamenei will probably keep their rivalry in cheek. The rivalry will continue, however, at times boiling over and becoming public. Khomeini has made numerous speeches warning the clerics that personal rivalries and ambition are un-Islamic and should ceasej

Rafsanjani's and Khamenei's differences appear more personal than ideological, and they will probably keep changing their positions and alliances depending on their perception of the political climate. Rafsanjani. weakened slightly by the Tudeh crackdown, will be careful not to be caught off guard again. Both leaders will seek to manipulate different factional groups, hoping their views will prevail j

Implications for (he United States

The rivalry between Khamenei and Rafsanjani has important implications for the future of Iran and,esult, for US policy in the Persian Gulf. If ihe succession deteriorates into open conflict, theretrong possibility that il could turn violent. Both men have links with the security forces, which could tempt them lo resort to force if their interests are seriously challenged. Other factions would become involved,eneral deterioration of the securilyin Iran. This could resulthaotic situation that could disrupt oil exports and encourage Soviel intervention. Available information indicatesand Khamenei's influence with theGuard and military is about equal, and we believe it is impossible to determine which leader would wintruggle-!- |

If, as is more likely, the succession is smooth and Rafsanjani and Khamenei retain their positions of influence, the regime's policies will remain much the same. Some moderation is possible as they become more confident in ihe regime's and in ihetr own ability to survive. Neither leader is strong enough to be the determining factor in Iran's policies, but hostility toward the United States could lessen if they view il in Iran's interest despite their current public position. Relations with the USSR could also improve, but we do not believe either leader would argue for close tics,asically nonatigned policy will be maintained.

Both men would probably pushediatedin the war with Iraq, which would considerably lessen ihe chance of hostilities spreading to theoil-exporting states in the Persian Gulf.and possibly Rafsanjani would argue for less aggressive export of the revolution, but neither would stop Iranian meddling completely.!

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