The USG Open Source Center translates an op-ed by Iraj Jamshidi on the rivalry to succeed Ayatollah Meshkini, who just died, as chair of the clerical Council of Experts. Mohammad Taqi Misbah-Yazdi is a far-right hardliner and mentor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani was president 1989-1997 and is more of a pragmatist, though right of center. The Council of Experts will choose the next Supreme Cleric when Ali Khamenei dies or steps down. The Council is also consulted on declarations of war. So the chairmanship could be fateful for Iran's future direction.
"Hashemi Rafsanjani or Mesbah Yazdi as successor of Ayatollah Meshkini"
E'temad (Internet Version - WWW)
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Hashemi Rafsanjani or Mesbah Yazdi as successor of the late Ayatollah Meshkini (Text of Report by Iraj Jamshidi from the political desk, entitled: "'The empty chair of Assembly of Expert's chairman'" Subtitle: "Following a long and serious illness, one of Iran's senior clerics who used to chair the Assembly of Experts has passed away. Now all attentions have been shifted towards his successor. A rivalry between Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mesbah Yazdi and their supporters is going on for this position. The report gives a short biography of Ayatollah Meshkini") . . .
The death of Ayatollah Meshkini, a prominent clergy of the Islamic republic has caused the attention to focus on the possible successor of his position as the Assembly of Expert's chairman.
Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, the 86 years old chairman of the Assembly of Experts has passed away. He had been ill since a while ago and suffered from kidney and lung diseases; the efforts of doctors were not successful and he passed away yesterday. This incident has drawn all the attention to the chairmanship of Assembly of Experts which was his place. This assembly is the highest place near the leader of the Islamic republic leader and one of the most important elements of the Islamic system. This assembly chooses the supreme leader among the most prominent clergy of the religious seminary and supervises his function. According to article 110 of the Constitution, the leader of the Islamic republic has very important responsibilities and power. The power of commanding the armed forces and choosing its leaders, supervision of the three powers, selecting the chief of the IRIB (voice and vision of the Islamic republic of Iran), determining the overall policies of the system, declaring war and peace, and selecting the chiefs of several governmental institutions are some of the main duties and power of the leader. It goes without saying that the institution which is responsible for selecting and supervising the leader is one the main pillars of the system. Therefore it has an especial place and its chairman has a unique position. Up to now the chair for all three periods of the assembly was Ayatollah Meshkini.
This assembly, only a few hours after the death of the grand leader of the revolution in 1989 selected his successor and published a statement saying that the assembly had chosen Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the new leader. Now the chair of this assembly has passed away and because of the importance of this assembly the attention is drawn to his empty chair. According to assembly's internal regulations, if the chair of the assembly dies there would be no exceptional meeting and the deputies should chair and carry on with normal sessions. Despite this fact, there have been speculations about the possible chair of the assembly because Ayatollah Meshkini declined from being a candidate last year because of his illness. But as there was an absolute majority for him to become the chair of the assembly he was re-elected once more. He was ill during his chairmanship and the sessions were administered by assembly deputies.
Now the questions rises as to who would sit in his place. Although Hashemi Rafsanjani is the first deputy of the assembly and will practically have to manage the sessions, but he cannot be considered as the next chairman, because there are tendencies in the assembly which are not so close to him and even criticise his thoughts openly. Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi is one of his opponents who have openly said that he is a friend of Hashemi Rafsanjani but cannot deny his discords with his views. Even in the period of elections when the newspapers said that Ayatollah Mesbah has met with Hashemi Rafsanjani, the office of Mesbah denied the news immediately and said the meeting was only saying a hello. But it cannot be said that the alternatives for assembly's chairmanship is limited to these two figures because these two have friends and allies who may have the opportunity to be elected and supported by them.
Ayatollah Seyed Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi, the present head of judiciary and the representative of Mashad in the assembly of experts, and also Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami, Tehran's acting Friday imam and Tehran's representative in the assembly are other possible candidates. Hashemi Shahrudi is especially supported by Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmad Khatami is supported by Mesbah Yazdi. Ayatollah Ahmad Janatti is another influential clergy in the assembly of experts and who is close to Mesbah Yazdi. It is said that he, along with Mesbah Yazdi forms a coalition which dispute the thoughts and views of other clergy such as Hashemi Rafsanjani or even Hashemi Shahrudi. Although the specific candidates for the chairmanship of the assembly is not yet determined but what is for sure is that the two main opposing tendencies, that of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mesbah Yazdi, would dominate the selection process. These two clergy would either themselves enter into competition or would support their candidates in this process.
Ayatollah Meshkini from birth to death
Ayatollah Ali Akbar Fiez, known as Meshkini was born in 1300 (1921) in a village in Meshkin. His father was a clergy who studied religion and was in service of the people.
Ayatollah Ali AKbar Meshkini attended classes of many famous teachers during his studies. He was a pupil of Ayatollah Ozma Borujrdi and Ayatollah Mohaqeq Damad. In Najaf he seriously attended the classes of teachers and high ranking clergy and lessons of Imam Khomeyni. After his studying period he continued to have friendly relationship with masters and teachers such as Ayatollah Javadi Amoli and Ayatollah Amini. Ayatollah Meshkini has done many activities in his life. Many of today's clergy had studied in his classes. He had taught many books in preliminary and intermediary jurisprudence for many years. His interpretation classes were always famous in Qom seminary. An important point in his activities was the creation of Alhadi institute which is dedicated to publishing useful Islamic books for all social groups and making people know better the Islamic knowledge.
Ayatollah Meshkini attended school when he was in Najaf with his father and came back to Iran to continue some of his studies with his father. After his father's death and according to his will, he went to Ardabil to study Arabic grammar. After this period he went to Qom accompanying one of the injured clergy in Goharshad Mosque incident during Reza Shah, and continued his religious studies At that period because of the Pahlavi regime, it was hard to study in Qom seminary, but he managed to study the basic courses and continued his studies of jurisprudence with famous masters of his time. He studied for seven month in Najaf in Imam Khomeyni classes but because of bad climatic conditions he was obliged to return to Iran.
The translation and Farsi interpretation for three books Mozarebe, Mozare-e (Islamic economics) and Orvatol Vosqa (under publication) and many articles in Nur-e Elm, Pasdar-e Islam, and... Islamic republic newspaper...has been published by him. He had written 28 religious books as well. The life of Ayatollah Meshkini is full of struggle and political effort to establish the rights of Islamic rule. He was one of the first people who joined the movement of Imam Khomeyni. He participated in clandestine revolutionary meetings. He was hiding for four months in Tehran and was forced to leave Iran and go to Iraq. When he returned to Qom he was arrested the next day and Savak (Shah's intelligence) asked him to leave Qom within 48 hours. He went to Mashad and taught there for 15 months and then came back to Qom and continued his struggles. He was then sent to exile along with 27 of the seminary's teachers. He went to his birth place. He was again arrested by Savak and sent to Mahan and Kerman. After two years he was exiled to Kashmar. He never gave up the struggles during this period. That is why Savak sent him to different places. He was a member of Qom's Theological Lecturers Association and signed under many of the statements. After the Islamic revolutionary Ayatollah Meshkini had various posts:
- Membership in Assembly of Experts in elaborating the Constitution
- Responsible for screening of judges (with Imam's permission)
- Chairman of the Assembly of Experts
- Qom's Friday imam (with the permission of Imam and the supreme leader)
- Membership of Qom's Theological Lecturers Association
- Chairman of the council for the review of the Constitution
(Description of Source: Tehran E'temad (Internet Version - WWW) in Persian -- Reformist daily published in Tehran; licensed to the Majles deputy from Rasht Elias Hazrati and managed by Behruz Behzadi)