Legacy of Rouhani and Zarif "indefensible"

She also explained that despite the undeniable impact of sanctions, neither they alone nor the intervention by the principalists (Osoulgarayan) – i.e. the Rouhani administration’s domestic hardline rivals – could be blamed for the country’s economic woes. In other words, the President himself must bear some of the responsibility. During the interview, she clearly distanced herself from the Rouhani administration, which was indeed remarkable, given that the current president is considered to have been a mentee of her late father.

Moreover, she maintained, the record of the current administration's second term (which began in August 2017), including that of President Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, is simply "indefensible". Not only have they begun to adopt positions "more hardline than the hardliners themselves", but neither Rouhani’s economic policies nor Zarif's control over his foreign-policy portfolio have proved sufficient to offset the adverse action and policies pursued by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps across the region.

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Hashemi was basically suggesting that the Rouhani administration had deviated from the school of thought associated with her father, adopting many of the policies of the Ahmadinejad administration instead.

Funeral of former Iranian president Rafsanjani in Shiraz (photo: Borna)
Dubbed the "veteran kingmaker" by The Economist and widely regarded as Rouhani's mentor, former president Rafsanjani promoted a pragmatic brand of Islamic conservatism. In favour of a free market economy domestically, his foreign policy stance was moderate, his main priority being to avoid conflict with the United States and the West

Soleimani’s regional policies of "resistance" counterproductive

In the other widely circulated segment of the interview, Faezeh Hashemi questioned the merit of Iran’s regional policy of "resistance".

Here, amid the week-long official commemoration of "martyr Haj Qassem", she provocatively asserted that she "hadn't heard a single person asking what Mr. Soleimani actually did." She thus broke another key taboo, namely the regime-promoted propaganda depicting the late IRGC commander as a genius – a national hero defending and promoting Iranian national interests and security throughout a dangerously chaotic region, pregnant with anti-Iranian, anti-Shia terrorism.

Instead, she maintained that ever since "Syria and the Arab Spring" in particular, Soleimani’s actions and those of the wider "resistance" had failed to advance Iran’s development in various key areas, such the economy, politics, freedom, and foreign policy.

Hashemi claimed, for instance, that before Soleimani decided  "to go to Syria", he sought the advice of her late father and "Dad said: 'Don’t go'." In fact, Hashemi Rafsanjani was reportedly the first high-ranking official of the Islamic Republic who (in August 2013, days after the Ghouta chemical attack near Damascus) openly voiced criticism over the extent of Iran’s intervention in Syria on behalf of Bashar Assad.

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Others within the "Rafsanjani camp", such as prominent former Tehran mayor Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi attending a campaign rally for the re-election of President Rouhani in April 2017, publicly criticised Iran’s policy in Syria and elsewhere in the region, saying it was overly reliant on arms rather than diplomacy.

 

As such, Karbaschi claimed that it was ultimately detrimental to Iran’s national interests and its image, only to be later rebuked by Rouhani administration officials

An expose of the Rafsanjani-inspired school of thought

Faezeh Hashemi’s questioning of Soleimani’s legacy reflects a larger argument, namely a key tenet of the school of thought closely associated with the figure of her late father: that the conduct of foreign policy must first and foremost serve the grand strategic goal of advancing Iranian development (mainly defined in economic terms), with the aim of elevating the country to a more advanced developmental stage.

This doctrine of a "developmentalist foreign policy" was initially nurtured by the Rouhani presidency and was translated into the administration’s pursuit of "constructive engagement" with the West. The success of this strategy, however, has been compromised by the regional policies advocated by the IRGC and Supreme Leader Khamenei.

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