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Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Hashemi Rafsanjani was born in 1934 to a family of pistachio farmers. He studied theology at a seminary in the city of Qom. There have been many stories about Rafsanjani being a man of great wealth, but he has always denied them.

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 By the time Rafsanjani left office, EU states had withdrawn all their ambassadors from Iran due to evidence Tehran ordered the assassination of Iranian opposition figures in Germany.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.

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