During the past 30 years, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was considered the “moderate”, “reformer”, or “pragmatist”. It is this carefully crafted public image that was presented to the international community, which allowed the Iran regime to negotiate for arms and appeasement. Countries, such as the U.S., believed that Rafsanjani and his prodigy, the current President Rouhani, were the voice of moderation in Iran.
“Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran and a founder of the Islamic republic,…navigated the opaque shoals of his country’s theocracy as one of its most enduring, wiliest and wealthiest leaders,” said New York Times reporter Alan Cowell.
Yet the facts suggest that Rafsanjani created a public persona that hid his true actions. During the years that Rafsanjani was in the public eye as President, he supported the repression of other groups, such as the MEK/PMOI. This repression was carried out through executions, imprisonments, torture and even large scale massacres by means of a fatwa in 1988 that cost 30,000 people their lives.
In addition, Rafsanjani was quoted supporting the killing of Americans and Europeans in retaliation for the killing of Palestinians. He pointed out that killing the Israelis would be too difficult, so those were the alternative targets. It demonstrated not only how little he valued life, but also his connections with terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East and Europe. He has been tied to attacks in Argentina, as well as assassinations of key Iranian opposition members living abroad.
He was known as “a pragmatist and centrist inclined toward economic liberalism and political authoritarianism, Mr. Rafsanjani was accused by critics of corruption in amassing his fortune and of a readiness for harsh tactics to deal with dissent at home and abroad,” said Cowell.
Since his death, questions have been raised about the stability of the regime, since Rafsanjani served as the public relations and advisor to the regime. A prime example was the Iran-Contra affair, where Rafsanjani received an American delegation in order to facilitate the release of American hostages in Lebanon in exchange for arms shipments to Tehran. “A carefully crafted narrative, with crucial input from Rafsanjani himself, had led that congressman and the pundits in Washington to view Rafsanjani as a ‘moderate’,” said Ali Safavi, in a recent Forbes article.
As president, Rafsanjani didn’t tolerate dissent. While he might have tried to improve ties with the West, he still instead on Iran’s right to develop its nuclear program. Critics have asserted that the Rafsanjani presidency coincided with the growth of corruption and the IRGC taking over important economic enterprises.
“Rafsanjani’s first priority was to keep the Islamic theocracy in power. He was a stalwart of the Iranian regime, always second in command, and certainly never the dissenter as some foreign observers portrayed him,” said Safavi.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has been a consistent voice against the regime and also reporting on what is happening within Iran regarding human rights violations and the political prisoners. Their President-elect Maryam Rajavi stated, “With the death of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the two pillars and key to the equilibrium of the religious fascism ruling Iran has collapsed and the regime in its entirety is approaching overthrow.”
According to Rajavi, the loss of Rafsanjani will have a significant impact on Iran’s internal and external equilibrium. In the post-Rafsanjani era, the international community has the opportunity to hold Iran accountable and bring about real change. The question is will the U.S. and the international community take this opportunity?