Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s landslide election to Iran’s powerful Council of Experts was widely considered a rebuke to President Ahmadinejad, his fundamentalist backers, and his nuclear brinksmanship.
But is he a gift to the West, or an ambitious politician with his own agenda for Iran and the Middle East?
As Iran’s former president, Rafsanjani calls for Sunni and Shia cooperation, including stronger ties with Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He says the United States is deliberately destabilizing the Middle East — but compared it to a “wounded tiger” that is being dangerously provoked by Ahmadinejad.
He is also one of the wealthiest men in a nation that is struggling economically. The Sydney Morning Herald notes that the “Shah of Pistachios” is secretive about his financial holdings, which include caviar, airlines, agriculture, real estate and mining.
One journalist who tried to dig into the issue is still in jail, and a rival businessman was also jailed during Rafsanjani’s presidency, the newspaper reports.
Rafsanjani was recently implicated by Argentinean prosecutors in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed dozens. Interpol issued arrest notices for several Iranian and Lebanese militants at Argentina’s request, but excluded him from the list.
“Iran’s mullahs don’t spend all day praying – they make money”
Sydney Morning Herald, March 19, 2007
“Iran & Hezbollah will get Interpol red arrest notices”
Associated Press, March 17, 2007
“U.S. behind all problems in Mideast: Rafsanjani”
Mehrnews.com, March 16, 2007
“Iran determined to strengthen convergence among Muslims: Rafsanjani”
Tehran Times, March 15, 2007
“Iran: Rafsanjani presses political offensive against president, stressing moderation”
Eurasianet.org, February 21, 2007
“Paper: Iran Criticizing Ahmadinejad”
MEMRI Blog, February 28, 2007