Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1989 to 1997, is dead, and the New York Times is inconsolable. Rafsanjani, you see, was a “reformer,” a “protector,” according to the Times, “of what was left of Iran’s marginalized reformist movement and others with more moderate views than the conservative hard-line clerics who hold sway in Iran’s security forces and judiciary.” As always, reality and what the New York Times reports couldn’t be farther apart.
Rafsanjani, said the Times, “supported Hassan Rouhani, the current president, who is now suddenly bereft of a powerful and influential background figure with Islamic revolutionary credentials that could not be questioned.” Without a trace of self-awareness, the Times’ longtime Tehran correspondent, Thomas Erdbrink, added in the very next sentence that “Mr. Rafsanjani” was also “a longtime comrade of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, although the two had their disagreements.”
Erdbrink didn’t explain how Rafsanjani could be simultaneously a “reformer” who supported Rouhani and a “longtime comrade” of the “hardliner” Khamenei, and with good reason: the whole idea of a “reformist movement” within the Iranian regime is a fiction, as Obama adviser Ben Rhodes revealed, to the administration’s embarrassment, in the Times in May 2016. That was when the Times published an effusive profile of Rhodes, in which Times reporter David Samuels revealed that “the way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented—that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country—was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal.”
The chief false and misleading aspect of Obama’s presentation of the deal to the American public was his claim that he was dealing with moderate elements of Iran’s Islamic regime—that, according to Samuels, was a “narrative that Rhodes shaped.” Rhodes propagated the falsehood that Rouhani was a “moderate” who was struggling against “hard-liners” within the regime. Samuels describes this as “actively misleading,” as is Erdbrink’s claim on Rafsanjani’s death that he was the chief supporter of this non-existent “reformist movement,” of which Rouhani was supposedly a part.
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