A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, January 9, 2017

‘Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani,1934-2017

‘Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the Iranian President from 1989-1997, and who held almost every other senior executive position other than Supreme Leader at one time or another, has died at age 82. Though his political fortunes have waxed and waned in recent years, he remained one of the most familiar faces throughout the entire period since the 1979 Revolution.

Born in a village near the pistachio-producing city of Rafsanjan, to a large and wealthy family which made its fortune in pistachios, The family name was Hashemi-Behramani; Rafsanajni was added as a clerical appellation. During and after his Speakership and Presidency, several of his children and siblings achieved prominence as well.

He came to be known as a moderate in the spectrum of Iranian revolutionaries; he had traveled in the United States before the Revolution.

At the seminary in Qom, he became a disciple of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. When Khomeini was forced into exile, he represented him as a leader in the domestic opposition to the Shah. After the Revolution he was a prominent figure in the Revolutionary Council, served as Minister of the Interior, as Tehran Friday Prayer Imam, and was Speaker of Parliament from 1980 to Khomeini's death in 1989. He served as a member of the Council of Experts from 1983 until his death, and as its Chairman 2007-2011.

As Khomeini's Personal Representative to the Supreme Defense Council he also served as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, he essentially was in command during the last year of the Iran-Iraq War, and accepted its end.

From early 1989 until his death he also chaired the powerful Expediency Discernment Council.

When Khomeini died in 1989, President ‘Ali Khamene'i was chosen as the new Supreme Leader, and Rafsanjani ran for and won election as Iran's fourth President. He improved relations with the outside world, including Saudi Arabia.

After the Presidential years he remained influential, remaining on the Council of Experts until replaced in 2011, and as Chairman of the Expediency Council until his death. In 2013 he registered to run for the Presidential elections, but was disqualified by the Council of Guardians. He then backed the election of Hassan Rouhani.

Rafsanjani reportedly died of a heart attack.

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