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.