Iranian Opposition Hopeful Rafsanjani’s Death Will Hasten Regime’s End

Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died Sunday aged 82, was linked in the latter years of his life “reformists” including current President Hasan Rouhani, but during his long career he was associated with some of the regime’s most controversial actions, including mass-casualty terror attacks and the assassinations of exiled dissidents, wrote Patrick Goodenough for on January 8. The following is a part of this article.

Iranian media reported that Rafsanjani died in at Tehran's Shohada Hospital after a heart attack. Rouhani was seen visiting the hospital shortly before the news broke.

Rafsanjani played an outsized political and religious role in the life of the Islamic republic, serving as president from 1989-1997 (after a stint as parliamentary speaker), but also heading two of the regime’s most important institutions – the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body of top religious scholars which nominates the supreme leader; and the Expediency Council, a body that advises the supreme leader.

He sought a return to the presidency in 2005, narrowly winning a six-way first round but losing in a runoff to “hardliner” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani become one of Ahmadinejad’s sharpest critics.

Over the last decade of his life he was often portrayed as a “pragmatist” or “moderate,” and the so-called “Rafsanjani-Rouhani bloc” backed reformers in elections last February for parliament and the Assembly of Experts. (Reformers made gains although hardliners continue to dominate both.)

With Rouhani running for another presidential term in elections in May this year, the loss of the influential Rafsanjani will be seen as a setback to the incumbent.

For the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), however, Rafsanjani’s death spells the removal of a pillar of a regime which it hopes to see defeated altogether.

NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi described his death as the collapse of “one of the two pillars and key to the equilibrium of the religious fascism ruling Iran.”

“Rafsanjani, who had always been the regime's number two, acted as its balancing factor and played a decisive role in its preservation. Now, the regime will lose its internal and external equilibrium,” she said in a statement that also referred to the “approaching overthrow” of the clerical regime.

Rajavi said Rafsanjani had over the 38 years since the Iranian revolution “played a critical role in suppression at home and export of terrorism abroad as well as in the quest to acquire nuclear weapons.”

In 2006, Rafsanjani was implicated by Argentinian investigators in one of the deadliest instances of Iranian terrorism abroad – a 1994 suicide truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed.

The investigators accused Iran of instructing its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to carry out the bombing. They issued arrest warrants for Rafsanjani, seven other senior Iranians, and a Lebanese national, Hezbollah terrorist chief Imad Mughniyah.

At Argentina’s request, Interpol then issued red notices – the organization’s equivalent of arrest warrants – for five of the Iranians and Mughniyah. On legal advice, however, Interpol declined to issue red notices for Rafsanjani and two others named – former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and Iran’s ambassador to Argentina at the time of the bombing, Hadi Soleimanpour. They remain wanted by Argentina.

Rafsanjani was also accused of ordering while president the killings of prominent dissidents abroad, including the assassination in 1992 of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant called Mykonos.

A German court in 1997 ruled that the Iranian regime was directly responsible for the Mykonos killings, a finding which the State Department said at the time provided further proof that Iran was a terrorist state.


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