Former Iranian Prez Rafsanjani Passes Away

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Tehran: Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died in hospital in Tehran where he was taken after suffering a heart attack on Sunday, state media reported.

State run Press TV said Rafsanjani, 82, died from a heart attack despite efforts by doctors to save him.

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Rafsanjani was an influential figure in Iran, and headed the Expediency Council, a body which is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council.

 Tasnim news agency also quoted his relative and aide Hossein Marashi as saying that Hasehmi had died at the hospital in Tehran.

Mr Rafsanjani’s mix of sly wit and reputation for cunning moves – both in politics and business – earned him a host of nicknames such as Akbar Shah, or Great King, during a life that touched every major event in Iranian affairs since before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

His presence – whether directly or through back channels – was felt in many forms. He was a steady leader in the turbulent years following the overthrow of the US-backed Shah, a veteran warrior in the country’s internal political battles and a covert go-between in intrigue such as the Iran-Contra arms deals in the 1980s.

He also was handed an unexpected political resurgence in his later years.

The surprise presidential election in 2013 of Mr Rafsanjani’s political soul mate, Hassan Rouhani, gave the former president an insider role in reform-minded efforts that included Mr Rouhani’s push for direct nuclear talks with Washington.

Mr Rouhani’s victory was also another example of Mr Rafsanjani’s remarkable political luck. Mr Rafsanjani was blocked from the ballot by Iran’s election overseers – presumably worried about boosting his already wide-ranging influence. But, in the end, many moderates turned to Mr Rouhani as an indirect vote for Mr Rafsanjani.

Mr Rafsanjani was a close aide of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and went on to serve as president from 1989 to 1997 during a period of significant changes in Iran. At the time, the country was struggling to rebuild its economy after a devastating 1980-88 war with Iraq, while also cautiously allowing some wider freedoms, as seen in Iran’s highly regarded film and media industry.

He also oversaw key developments in Iran’s nuclear program by negotiating deals with Russia to build an energy-producing reactor in Bushehr, which finally went into service in 2011 after long delays. Behind the scenes, he directed the secret purchase of technology and equipment from Pakistan and elsewhere.

Mr Rafsanjani managed to remain within the ruling theocracy after leaving office, but any dreams of taking on a higher-profile elder statesman role collapsed with Mr Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009 and the intense crackdown that followed. Mr Rafsanjani’s harsh criticism of Mr Ahmadinejad branded him as a dissenter in the eyes of many conservatives.

But some analysts believe that Mr Rafsanjani was kept within the ruling fold as a potential mediator with America and its allies in the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. His past stature as a trusted Khomeini ally also offered him political protection. Rafsanjani was a top commander in the war with Iraq and played a key role in convincing Khomeini to accept a cease-fire as it became clear that extending the stalemate could pose a crippling drain on Iran’s economy.

His image, however, also had darker undertones. He was named by prosecutors in Argentina among Iranian officials suspected of links to a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead. Some Iranian reformers accused him of involvement in the slaying of liberals and dissidents during his presidency – charges that were never pursued by Iranian authorities.

 

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