Iran Focus: For over two decades, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been one of the two most powerful men within Irans ruling hierarchy, first as Ayatollah Khomeinis most trusted confidant until his death in 1989, and later as the junior partner in the Khamenei-Rafsanjani duo that has been at the apex of the Islamic Republic since then.
As a young theological student in Qom, Rafsanjani, who hails from the rural deserts of southern Iran, became a fervent supporter of Khomeinis radical Islamic ideology. Iran Focus
Position: Chairman of the State Expediency Council and deputy speaker of the Assembly of Experts
For over two decades, Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been one of the two most powerful men within Irans ruling hierarchy, first as Ayatollah Khomeinis most trusted confidant until his death in 1989, and later as the junior partner in the Khamenei-Rafsanjani duo that has been at the apex of the Islamic Republic since then.
As a young theological student in Qom, Rafsanjani, who hails from the rural deserts of southern Iran, became a fervent supporter of Khomeinis radical Islamic ideology. With a penchant for business, the junior cleric established himself as a wheeler-dealer, cultivating ties with a range of anti-Shah groups and personalities. In 1971, he was arrested by the Shahs secret police, SAVAK, and spent a few months in jail on charges of providing support for the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK) opposition group.
When mass demonstrations in the late 1970s signalled the end of the Shahs rule, Rafsanjanis prominence as one of Khomeinis closest lieutenants rose rapidly. In the new Islamic regime, he became a member of the Revolutionary Council, and after a short spell as Interior Minister, became Majlis (parliament) Speaker in 1980. In effect, Khomeini gave Rafsanjani much greater powers than his official position allowed. He was made the acting Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and, according to insiders, no important policy decision was made without his approval.
After Khomeinis death in 1989, Rafsanjani became President for two terms. Since then he has chaired the powerful State Expediency Council, which acts as a supreme arbitration body to settle disputes between the Majlis and the watchdog Guardians Council.
The criminal court of Berlin issued an international warrant for Rafsanjanis arrest after he was found to be a key member of a four-man committee that made the decisions for assassination of Iranian dissidents abroad. Rafsanjanis past is heavily tainted with involvement in international terrorism; as President he personally oversaw much of the activities of VEVAK, Irans dreaded secret police, and dozens of terrorist attacks abroad were carried out under his command, including the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen, and the bombing of the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in 1994. More than 80 people died in that attack.
Rafsanjani is widely seen as the father of Irans nuclear weapons program. The initial phase of the program in the early 1980s was carried out under his supervision as the acting Commander in Chief. As President, Rafsanjani placed enormous resources at the disposal of the countrys military-industrial complex to develop the nuclear bomb project. The greatest advancements in the nuclear project, from uranium enrichment technology to plutonium extraction methods, were made under his direction.
Described as a pragmatic conservative abroad, inside Iran Rafsanjani is best known by two distinguishing traits; the first being his mass fortune, as compared to the disastrous economy he left after his tenure. Parallel to this is his willingness to use extreme force to quell dissent and his role in the chain murders of dissidents who dared to voice their opposition to the current theocratic system. His role in these killings earned him the nickname The Grey Eminence after a book by jailed journalist Akbar Ganji.
During Rafsanjanis presidency hundreds of writers, journalists, and other intellectuals were imprisoned, murdered, or simply disappeared.
Rafsanjanis status as one of the most despised figures in the clerical regime came under limelight in the year 2000, when he stood for parliamentary elections in Tehran and came in last at the thirtieth slot. The butt of many popular jokes about his wealth, his survival instincts and his vulgarity, Rafsanjani earned yet another nickname after his election failure, becoming known as Aghassi (literally meaning Mr. Thirtieth) inside Iran.
In his own Words:
[u”>Rafsanjani on terrorism:[/u”>
“If in retaliation for every Palestinian martyred in Palestine they kill and execute, not inside Palestine, five Americans, or Britons or Frenchmen [the Israelis”> would not continue these wrongs.
“It is not difficult to kill Americans or Frenchmen. It is a bit difficult to kill [Israelis”>. But there are so many [Americans and Frenchmen”> everywhere in the world”.
(Speaking at a Friday prayers congregation on May 5, 1989)
[u”>Rafsanjani on nuclear bombs:[/u”>
If one day … Of course, that is very important. If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality. Of course, you can see that the Americans have kept their eyes peeled and they are carefully looking for even the slightest hint that technological advances are being made by an independent Islamic country. If an independent Islamic country is thinking about acquiring other kinds of weaponry, then they will do their utmost to prevent it from acquiring them. Well, that is something that almost the entire world is discussing right now.
(BBC Monitoring Service: Qods Day speech on December 14, 2001)