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Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was responsible for Khamenei’s ascension to the position of Supreme Leader in 1989. Rafsanjani is perceived as enormously wealthy and corrupt. There have been many stories about Rafsanjani being a man of great wealth, but he has always denied them.

Hashemi Rafsanjani was born in 1934 to a family of pistachio farmers. He studied theology at a seminary in the city of Qom.

Hashemi Rafsanjani's involvement with politics dates to the early 1960s, when he began his association with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. After the 1979 Revolution, this relationship and Hashemi Rafsanjani's political skills led to him becoming one of the country's most powerful figures. He served as speaker of parliament from 1980-89.

Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani served two terms as Iran's president from 1989 to 1997. Rafsanjani's terms as president saw some socioeconomic liberalization and appointments of technocrats. His two-term presidency brought some modest social and economic reforms. He was also credited with spurring Iran's reconstruction following the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

The reforms were not enough to attract extensive foreign investment. Rafsanjani also failed to capitalize on feelers from Washington exploring the possibility of talks to reduce Iran-US tensions. Rafsanjani allowed his Ministry of Intelligence free rein for crackdowns on domestic political activists. By the time Rafsanjani left office, EU states had withdrawn all their ambassadors from Iran due to evidence Tehran ordered the assassination of Iranian opposition figures in Germany. In his time as Majlis speaker in the 1980s, Rafsanjani had been one of many to call for the reinstatement of members of the Shah's hated intelligence service SAVAK into the successor organization SAVAMA, to help the regime eliminate domestic opposition.

The former President went on to head Iran's top political arbitration body, the Expediency Council. The Expediency Council was tasked with adjudicating in legislative disputes between the parliament and the Guardians Council, and also advised the Supreme Leader. The council was also involved with constitutional revisions. As chairman of the Council, Hashemi Rafsanjani was one of the country's most powerful individuals. He was also deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, the body that elects Iran's Supreme Leader. Rafsanjani also became a member of the Supreme National Security Council, and continued through 2008 to be one of Iran's most ubiquitous figures.

Rafsanjani was considered possibly only second to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in influence in Iran. Hashemi Rafsanjani was seen as a veteran politician with lots of influence on Iran's political scene. He was very influential informally, too, through the patron-client relationships and personal networks that resulted from his lengthy involvement in politics, through his extended family, and through his clerical ties. This personal standing and connections have allowed Rafsanjani to also have an international role, including his work in attempting to repair differences between Muqtada Sadr and the Iranian-supported Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

Rafsanjani, though initially a major conservative politician, became increasingly more pragmatic and moderate as he continued his involvement in Iran's political structure. During the presidency of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97), reformists controlled a majority of seats in parliament until 1992 and supported Rafsanjani's policies for economic reform and the normalization of relations with neighboring countries. The conservatives won a majority of seats in both the 1992 and 1996 parliamentary elections and subsequently used their position in the legislature to weaken or stop outright many reforms proposed by the Rafsanjani government.

In the 2005 Iranian presidental election he branded himself as the only one of the eight candidates with the stature to deliver on his campaign promises. He said he wanted to integrate Iran into the global economy. He was also probably the person in best position to deliver some kind of deal on the nuclear program. With the failure of his 2005 campaign and accusations of campaign fraud and harassment, Rafsanjani entered into an alliance with reformist politicians and other moderates. This policial block scored a major victory in the 2006 municipal elections against the ultra-conversative supporters of the winner of the 2005 election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

European governments had backed Mostafa Moin, an ally of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami, and pinned their hope on "pragmatic" Rafsanjani in the second round of voting. The hardliner domination of politics in Tehran threw the European Union policy of "constructive engagement" with Iran into disarray. Engaging Iran in the hope of promoting moderates came to naught.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was a figure whom both certain Reformists and Conservatives wanted to join the 2013 presidential race. He was the most well-known politician in Iran after the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor Ayatollah Khamenei. Rafsanjani served as Majlis Speaker for two consecutive terms before becoming a two-term president.

Chairing the Expediency Council, Rafsanjani is an outspoken critic of Ahmadinejad’s policies. His proponents believe that the 77-year-old veteran politician is the only one capable of leading the country out of the present circumstances. His critics say he is not physically capable for presidency and his return would mean political reactionism.

Rafsanjani’s behavior in the past had shown that he is completely unpredictable and he may decide to run for president in the last minute. Moreover, he is not afraid of defeat. He ran in 2005 and lost to Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani conceded defeat at the time although some analysts believe that without his candidacy, Ahmadinejad would not have managed to polarize the election and win over slum dwellers and villagers to reach victory.

In 1989, Rafsanjani underscored the need to obtain an atomic arsenal, stressing that "Iran cannot overlook the reality of nuclear strength in the modern world." Nuclear arms, in the Tehran mullahs’ view, are "the most important strategic guarantee" of their survival. In 1991, Ayatollah Mohajerani, one of Rafsanjani’s deputies, clarified the need to obtain nuclear weapons. "Since the enemy has nuclear facilities," he said, "Islamic countries must be armed with the same capacity."

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