Rafsanjani dies of heart attack; Khamenei loses cover
Rafsanjani was indicted in Argentina for his role in the AMIA bombing that killed 86 Argentinean Jews in 1994, and was also cited in the 1996 Mykonos murders in Germany for his role in directing "hit squads" that assassinated Iranian opposition leaders living overseas. He was also named as a defendant in Havlish v. Islamic Republic of Iran, litigation brought by family members of 9/11 victims against the Iranian regime that led to a $6 billion judgment against the regime and against Rafsanjani personally.
Rafsanjani invited nuclear scientists to return
from exile in the mid-1980s and is widely viewed as the "father"
of Iran's covert nuclear weapons program, having famously declared
his belief that Iran could destroy Israel with a single nuclear
weapon. ("The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy
Israel completely, while the same against Iran would only cause
damages. Such a scenario is not inconceivable," he said in a sermon
at Tehran University on Dec. 14, 2001).
The wily pseudo-moderate provided cover to Khamenei and other "hard-liners" by offering them a life-line to the West, and is widely credited with having pushed hard for the Iran deal with the United States and the EU-3. Nevertheless, in recent years his power has been challenged by the IRGC, which arrested his own children (since released) and protege's, including members of Atieh Bahar, a consulting company established by Iranians in the United States with the goal of helping foreign companies do business in Iran.
Rafsanjani's reach continues to be on display in the United States, where his sympathizers include the editor of Voice of America's Persian News Network, Mohammad Manzarpour. When Rafsanjani's death was announced, Manzarpour changed his Facebook page to a well-known Koranic verse used to express sympathy for someone who has just died.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is Executive Director of the Foundation
for Democracy in Iran. Contact him by email.