Iranian Officials Criticize Former President Rafsanjani For Advocating Talks With The U.S.

Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani talks with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei

The New York Times reported earlier this week that former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had recently reiterated his longstanding suggestion that Iran restore diplomatic relations with the United States. “The meaning of negotiation is not that we submit to them,” Rafsanjani wrote in the International Studies Journal. “We negotiate, and if they accept our positions or we accept theirs, then it is done.” Juan Cole yesterday published an extended version of Rafsanjani’s article, translated from Farsi, in which the former president outlines his logic (emphasis added):

There are difficult passages and if you do not help us pass through them, they will be difficult to pass through after you… Ties with America were one of these issues. I wrote that, after all, our current practice — of not speaking to or having ties with America — could not persist forever. America is the super power of the world. What is the difference between Europe and the US, China and the US, or Russia and the US from our point of view? Why should we not negotiate with the US if we negotiate with them? Talks do not mean that we should surrender to them. We will negotiate and if they accept our positions or we accept their positions, then it would be all over.

The Washington Times reports today that state-affiliated Iranian news outlets are criticizing Rafsanjani:

In a response to the interview, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the pro-government newspaper Kayhan, said Khomeini opposed dialogue with the U.S. “because Iran’s primary conflict has been and remains with America.”

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency, which is close to the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that Mr. Rafsanjani’s call for a dialogue with Washington contradicts senior officials who have said that talks with the U.S. would produce no results.

Shariatmadari said that U.S. must “change its arrogant nature, or as His Holiness said, ‘dismounts the ass of Satan,'” before Iran negotiates. “His Excellency Rafsanjani has apparently forgotten that the United States solely desires negotiations for the sake of negotiations and not in for solving the problems of the parties.” Shariatmadari added.

Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Saidi, representative of the Supreme Leader to the Revolutionary Guards, also pushed back. “As long as the United States has an arrogant nature, there is under no circumstance the possibility of negotiation and reaching an agreement with the United States,” he said.

Rafsanjani is currently chairman of the Expediency Council, which advises the Supreme Leader.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius reports today that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a message to Khamenei last week from President Obama saying that the U.S. would accept Iran’s civilian nuclear program if the Supreme Leader “can back up his recent public claim that his nation ‘will never pursue nuclear weapons.'” Ignatius added, “Obama advised Erdogan that the Iranians should realize that time is running out for a peaceful settlement and that Tehran should take advantage of the current window for negotiations.”