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Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani issued a press release Tuesday denying reports that he received a letter from Secretary of State John Kerry that said the United States would support him if he chose to run in Iran's presidential election next month.
Whether his denial will carry any weight, however, may be moot, as Iranian media is reporting that Rafsanjani and another candidate, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's handpicked successor, were disqualified from the race.
Iranian media earlier has speculated that would happen, with reports that Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei would be rejected by the council that approves candidacies.
Ahmadinejad has warned that if his handpicked successor, Mashaei, was rejected, he will release a tape that proves his 2009 re-election was fraudulent.
In a May 15 exclusive, WND reported that a secret message from Kerry was delivered to Rafsanjani of U.S. support, according to a source affiliated with the office of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The source, who remains anonymous for security reasons and who has provided valuable information before, said that on May 3, Kerry’s letter was delivered via the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh to Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who arranged through the Saudi Embassy in Tehran to present the message to Rafsanjani indicating support from both the White House and the Saudi monarch.
Over 100 of the regime's media outlets, including Channel 1 TV, immediately picked up WND's report, which forced Rafsanjani's office to post a denial on his official website.
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"After the false publication of internal media quoting American WND regarding a secret letter by John Kerry to Ayatollah Rafsanjani and on the threshold of the presidential elections," Rafsanjani's press release said, "some vengeful media in Iran, without considering the national interest of the country and with the goal of character assassination, have expanded on news and rumors of anti-revolutionary foreign media."
The press release said it's unfortunate that some "internal media," based on their political tendencies, have chosen to become aligned with WND’s report.
After a warning that Rafsanjani might reveal some official regime secrets, the release asks, "Are (the media) willing to publish reports against all officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran!?"
The release said Rafsanjani's office regretted this "anti-human and anti-moral" behavior by the "internal media" that have become the "loudspeaker" of the anti-revolutionaries and he reserved the right to take legal action against those in regime media who expanded on the WND report.
Fars News Agency, the media outlet run by the Revolutionary Guards, published Rafsanjani's denial under a big headline: "I did not receive a secret message from the U.S. Secretary of State."
Jamnews, a regime media outlet, not only put up the WND report in full but partly translated it into Farsi.
Another regime outlet, Yjc.ir (Young Journalist Club), also run by the Revolutionary Guards, not only fully translated the WND piece but said the news of U.S. support for Rafsanjani was published at a time when other U.S. officials had stated that Rafsanjani's candidacy would be their best scenario for the June 14 presidential election.
The outreach to Rafsanjani goes back to what led to the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980s in which a direct channel of communication was established with Rafsanjani, who was then the speaker of parliament.
Rafsanjani had promised the American administration that once Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, died, then relations between the two countries could improve, but his promises then and after continued to be hollow as he bought time for the regime to progress in various fields.
Rafsanjani, who portrays himself as a moderate, announced his candidacy just before the May 11 registration deadline, drawing harsh reaction by the hardliners in Iran, who requested that authorities bar him from the election.
Rafsanjani played a major role in the 2009 election by supporting Mousavi, who actually won the vote against Ahmadinejad, whose victory was assured under orders by the supreme leader to add millions to his tally. That fraud touched off days of rioting in which thousands were arrested and many imprisoned or executed and led to the Green Movement, angering the hardliners.
As also reported, Ahmadinejad had promised to release a tape that would prove the 2009 election was fraudulent if his handpicked candidate, Mashaei, was denied a spot in the presidential election. That WND report also caused a firestorm in Iran.
The Guardian Council, which must approve candidates, had said its decisions would be announced Wednesday. The source who provided the information both on Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani to WND said security forces have been stationed around Tehran in anticipation of possible rioting should one candidate or another be rejected.
The source said the WND reports have not only touched off a furor in Iran but have caused grave complications for the regime, which is now confused about what to do in its approval process, fearing instability as the elections nears.
WND's reports have continuously unnerved the regime in ways that no other reports have done, the source said. This only benefits the Iranian people, he said, who as a majority "want nothing to do with this regime and the so-called moderates (Rafsanjani) who are as much of a criminal as the other officials of the Islamic Republic, whose only goal is for the survival of the regime for a bit longer."