Iran’s Late, Lamented Rafsanjani a “Reformer”? What a Laugh!

Iran’s Late, Lamented Rafsanjani a “Reformer”? What a Laugh!

Despite what you may have read (for instance, here and here), the notion that Rafsanjani was a “moderate” looking to “reform” the totalitarian theocracy is a load of shiite.

The death of an illusion. 

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1989 to 1997, is dead, and the New York Times is inconsolable. Rafsanjani, you see, was a “reformer,” a “protector,” according to the Times, “of what was left of Iran’s marginalized reformist movement and others with more moderate views than the conservative hard-line clerics who hold sway in Iran’s security forces and judiciary.” As always, reality and what the New York Times reports couldn’t be farther apart.

Rafsanjani, said the Times, “supported Hassan Rouhani, the current president, who is now suddenly bereft of a powerful and influential background figure with Islamic revolutionary credentials that could not be questioned.” Without a trace of self-awareness, the Times’ longtime Tehran correspondent, Thomas Erdbrink, added in the very next sentence that “Mr. Rafsanjani” was also “a longtime comrade of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, although the two had their disagreements.”

Erdbrink didn’t explain how Rafsanjani could be simultaneously a “reformer” who supported Rouhani and a “longtime comrade” of the “hardliner” Khamenei, and with good reason: the whole idea of a “reformist movement” within the Iranian regime is a fiction, as Obama adviser Ben Rhodes revealed, to the administration’s embarrassment, in the Times in May 2016. That was when the Times published an effusive profile of Rhodes, in which Times reporter David Samuels revealed that “the way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented—that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country—was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal.”

The chief false and misleading aspect of Obama’s presentation of the deal to the American public was his claim that he was dealing with moderate elements of Iran’s Islamic regime—that, according to Samuels, was a “narrative that Rhodes shaped.” Rhodes propagated the falsehood that Rouhani was a “moderate” who was struggling against “hard-liners” within the regime. Samuels describes this as “actively misleading,” as is Erdbrink’s claim on Rafsanjani’s death that he was the chief supporter of this non-existent “reformist movement,” of which Rouhani was supposedly a part.

In reality, Rafsanjani was just as bellicose, militaristic, and intransigent as the other leaders of the Islamic Republic. As I detail in my book The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran, on December 22, 2011, U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels ruled in Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al., that Iran and Hizballah were liable for damages to be paid to relatives of the victims of the September 11, 2001, jihad attacks in New York and Washington, as both the Islamic Republic and its Lebanese proxy had actively aided al-Qaeda in planning and executing those attacks. Daniels determined that both Khamenei and Rafsanjani were directly implicated in Iranian efforts to aid al-Qaeda in its 9/11 plot.

This wasn’t the first time Rafsanjani was implicated in a foreign jihad plot. On July 18, 1994, a jihad-martyrdom suicide bomber destroyed the Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, killing eighty-five people and wounding three hundred. As years went by and no one was convicted of the attack, numerous accusations were made of cover-ups by Argentine investigators and authorities. Finally, in October 2006, Argentine state prosecutor Alberto Nisman formally charged Iran and Hizballah and called for the arrest of, among others, Rafsanjani, charging that he had ordered the attack as revenge for Argentina’s ending its nuclear cooperation with Iran.

On January 19, 2015, Nisman, still pursuing this case, was found dead — shot to death in his bathtub.

Rafsanjani has also spoken cavalierly about the Islamic Republic nuking Israel, saying in 2001 that “application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing [sic] in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” In light of Shi’ite Muslim prophecies about how the Twelfth Imam would return to earth, and proceed to conquer and Islamize the world, when Muslims were persecuted more fiercely than ever before, Rafsanjani may have been signaling a willingness to nuke Tel Aviv in order to a retaliatory nuclear strike that could kill tens of millions of Iranians, and thereby bring about the return of the Twelfth Imam. If it would hasten the Mahdi’s coming, why not?

That’s the leader of a “reformist movement” in the Islamic Republic of Iran these days. Wait til you see the hardliners.


Rafsanjani tricked every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan into believing he was a “moderate,” somehow opposed to the “hard-liners” in charge of the regime’s affairs. In fact, Rafsanjani operated at the core of the regime and supported its doctrine of absolute clerical rule and its terrorist operations, from the taking of U.S. hostages in Lebanon to the bombing of U.S. servicemen in Dahran, Saudi Arabia, including Iran’s support for al Qaeda and the 9/11 plot.

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 protegés, 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.

Despite what you may have read in the news, former Iranian President Rafsanjani was not a moderate.