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June 21, 2005
Britain: Rafsanjani No Reformer

Britain issued a warning against trusting Ali Akbar Rafsanjani as a reformist voice, reminding people of Rafsanjani's role in implementing some of the most repressive of the policies of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The unusually harsh diplomatic language comes as Iranian reformist groups debate whether to boycott elections altogether or band together to keep hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the presidency:

The wily cleric, who served as president from 1989 to 1997, has cast himself as a centrist, and has dropped several hints that he was open to dealing with America.

But a senior British diplomat dismissed Mr Rafsanjani's reputation as a "pragmatist", and cast doubt over whether he would make it easier to resolve the crisis over Teheran's nuclear programme.

"It's important that people do not see Rafsanjani as a white knight. He has been president for eight years, and a lot of bad things happened in those eight years," he said. "He does not have a record of reform, co-operation with the West or abiding by international standards.

"We hear what he says, and we like it. But there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk."

Britain's warning is well taken. The Telegraph reminds its readers that Rafsanjani used to run the Iranian secret police, and may have ordered the killings of scores of dissidents during the worst days of Khomeini's reign. No one at Downing Street apparently buys into the notion that Rafsanjani has mellowed into a democrat.

For that matter, they're not buying into Jack Straw's analysis of Iran as an "emerging democracy" any more, either. The obviously rigged election has revealed Straw's wishful thinking as hopelessly naive. The only benefit this election has had is to make clear that the Guardian Council rules Iran just as absolutely as the Politburo once did the Soviet Union.

Earlier today, I recommended that reform-minded Iranians should just boycott the polling centers if they wanted to send a message. According to Publius Pundit, they actually did that during the first round -- but the Guardian Council simply published bogus numbers instead. If people find that hard to believe, Robert Mayer has the photographs.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 21, 2005 8:02 PM

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