By Amir Basiri
Dying at the age of 82 from a heart attack on Sunday, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had a long record of guiding the regime’s lethal measures domestically and abroad, including suicide bombings and eliminating exiled dissidents. Such an image is far from the “moderate” that Western media found in him.
Rafsanjani was known for his central role in Iranian politics. From the 1979 revolution forward, he placed himself amongst the inner circle of regime founder and first supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini. He served as the regime’s parliamentary speaker in the 1980s, while in parallel acted as Khomeini’s envoy to supervise operations in the Iran-Iraq War.
As Khomeini died and the war wound down, Rafsanjani assumed the mantle of presidency in 1989 and played a significant part in Ali Khamenei’s rise as Khomeini’s successor. Rafsanjani continued his political life by chairing the Assembly of Experts — in charge of appointing the supreme leader and acting as an oversight body over his role — and move on to the Expediency Council before his death, both advising Khamenei and finalizing conflicts between the ultra-conservative Guardian Council and the parliament.
Following eight years of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, in 2005 Rafsanjani made an effort to reclaim this position. This campaign ended in humiliation as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed the presidency. For the next eight years Rafsanjani publicly criticized and denounced Ahmadinejad’s policies and actions, distancing himself from the hardliners and further attempting to portray himself as a “reformist” favoring warm relations with the West.
Despite serious differences and rivalry over power and influence, Khamenei fully comprehended his need for Rafsanjani as a stabilizing factor and could never fully eliminate him. Rafsanjani’s death is now evaluated as the loss of a significant pillar for the entire regime, as explained by Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
“Rafsanjani, who had always been the regime’s number two, acted as its balancing factor and played a decisive role in its preservation. Now, the regime will lose its internal and external equilibrium,” she added, also predicting the “approaching overthrow” of the mullahs’ regime.
For 38 years Rafsanjani “played a critical role in suppression at home and export of terrorism abroad, as well as in the quest to acquire nuclear weapons,” Rajavi underscored.
In 2006 Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman filed suit against Rafsanjani for his role in one of the deadliest Iran-supported terrorist attacks abroad — the 1994 suicide truck bombing targeting the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The massive blast leveled entire buildings and resulted in the death of 85 people with hundreds more wounded. The investigators specifically issued arrest warrants for Rafsanjani and seven other senior Iranian regime figures.
Rafsanjani also ordered numerous assassinations of dissidents in exile, including former Iranian ambassador the United Nations and prominent human rights activist Dr. Kazem Rajavi. Iranian assassins murdered him in 1990 near his Geneva home. Swiss investigators raised charges against Tehran and authorities issued an arrest warrant for Rafsanjani’s spy chief Ali Fallahian.
The March 1993 assassination of 42-year-old NCRI Rome envoy Mohammad Hossein Naghdi in the Italian capital and the February 1996 murder of the NCRI’s refugee envoy Zahra Rajabi in Istanbul were also ordered by Rafsanjani.
He also had a particular enmity against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the central entity in the NCRI umbrella group.
“Four rulings are a must for [MEK members]: 1– Be killed. 2 — Be hanged. 3 — Arms and legs be amputated. 4 — Be separated from society,” Rafsanjani is quoted in saying back in 1981. As Khomeini’s right hand, he also presided over the summer 1988 massacre, sending over 30,000 political prisoners to the gallows throughout Iran.
Rafsanjani has been a balancing factor through the course of the past four decades. The regime in its entirety has suffered a major defeat and will significantly decline down the road.
Khamenei’s focus will be to prevent this development from sparking into an uncontrollable turn of events for the entire establishment. Considering this regime’s past approach, there is a high probably of Tehran’s mullahs resorting to enhancing their effort to spread violence, exporting extremism and terrorism, and promoting Islamic fundamentalism across the region and beyond.
Amir Basiri is a human rights activist and analyst. He tweets at @amir_bas
Originally published in American Thinker