For the second time in less than a week, Iranian media have disclosed hitherto unknown secrets about assassination attempts on the country's former presidents.
Although the coincidence could be the result of rivalry between various media outlets to come up with scoops, the question "Why now?" remains valid.
In the absence of official explanations about why these reports are being published now, some conspiracy theorists maintain that the publication of successive reports about the assassinations may be intended to scare regime insiders who occasionally criticize Khamenei and his hard-headed resistance to change while the country is in deep political and economic crisis.
The latest revelation about an assassination attempt on former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani dates back to 2014 when he was the Chairman of Iran's Expediency Council. The allegation refers to the unpublished parts of Rafsanjani’s memoires saying that security officials arrested a man on charges of setting fire to the offices of two of his secretaries.
Rafsanjani’s family has access to the unpublished volumes of his memoirs.
Rafsanjani who had previously escaped an assassination attempt in 1979, asked the Interior Ministry months later why the case had remained inconclusive. The ministry said that the assassin was handed over to the relevant authorities.
Rafsanjani who was worried about a possible attempt on his own life after being disqualified from running in the 2013 presidential election, further chased the case, but he was told that the authorities cannot trust the assassin's confessions as he made them under duress.
According to memoirs, later, the IRGC changed the story and claimed that the man wanted to kill Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Subsequently, the IRGC insisted on changing Rafsanjani's bodyguards. The former President opposed the idea, and asked Khamenei to intervene. Khamenei ordered the IRGC not to change Rafsanjani's bodyguards, but the IRGC went ahead and retired some of the bodyguards and replaced others, said Rafsanjani's son Mohsen.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (left) and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Rafsanjani was Iran's President from 1988 to 1997. The media reported that his successor, the reformist Mohammad Khatami who was in office from 1987 to 2005, was also the target of an assassination attempt in 1999 that never happened. According to these reports, a member of his security team had planned to assassinate Khatami but when he sought a fatwa from Grand Ayatollahs for his murder, one of the clerics told the security agencies that a man was planning to kill Khatami.
The security team, instead of further chasing the case or interrogating the assassin, gave him leave of absence for some time, during which the man went to his hometown in Lorestan Province where he planted a bomb near a government office and was subsequently arrested and the courts began to investigate the assassination attempt on Khatami. According to -then- Deputy Intelligence Minister Saeed Hajjarian, the man was sentenced to just three years in jail.
However, Khatami ordered his office to lend financial assistance to his family members while he was in jail. Khatami later forgave the man and declared that he has no complaint against him, said Hajjarian.
Ironically, a few months later, another assassin attacked Hajjarian and left him physically impaired.
According to Etemad Online, Farshad Toolabi, the assassin who wanted to Kill Khatami later told reporters that he had considered many different ways to kill Khatami, but he finally decided to kill him during a suicide attempt by triggering an explosive vest as he pretended to hug Khatami. Toolabi said that at the time, he was a 30-year-old IRGC captain serving with the security team at the President's Office.
He also said that he was interrogated by intelligence agencies for 18 months before he was finally released from jail after Khatami intervened. He told reporters that he still wishes to see Khatami and thank him for facilitating his release.