Rafsanjani Is Major Influence In Iran Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is exercising influence from behind the scenes in the aftermath of the country's disputed presidential elections. Journalist Robin Wright talks with Renee Montagne about Rafsanjani.
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Rafsanjani Is Major Influence In Iran

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Rafsanjani Is Major Influence In Iran

Rafsanjani Is Major Influence In Iran

Rafsanjani Is Major Influence In Iran

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/105797041/105797049" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is exercising influence from behind the scenes in the aftermath of the country's disputed presidential elections. Journalist Robin Wright talks with Renee Montagne about Rafsanjani.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Iran's hard line incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was named the winner and the widespread protests that followed has sparked the biggest challenges to Iran's leadership in 30 years.

DAVID GREENE, Host:

Here he is in a recent BBC series recalling his role at that crucial moment in Iran's history.

ALI AKBAR HASHEMI RAFSANJANI: (Foreign language spoken)

MONTAGNE: Good morning.

ROBIN WRIGHT: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Tell us more about Rafsanjani and how he fits into Iran's post- revolution politics.

WRIGHT: At the time there were many in Iran who believed that this was an effort to also change the system so that the most powerful man in Iran was the president, or at least the equal of the supreme leader. And he was the one who actually also orchestrated putting Ali Khamenei into the job he has now held for 20 years as supreme leader.

MONTAGNE: So very powerful and very entrenched. What are his formal positions today, if he has any?

WRIGHT: He's also head of something called the Expediency Council, which in Iran's convoluted system is a body that was created, in large part, by his own political maneuvering to oversee any disputes between the Council of Guardians and Parliament and to resolve any disputes between other bodies that can't work themselves out.

MONTAGNE: Although you - does that put him in a position to actually lead some sort of overthrow of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei?

WRIGHT: Well, in the chaos in Iran today, there are lots of conspiracy theories about what Mr. Rafsanjani might be doing in the background, whether he is trying to use his position to mobilize support among the clerics on the Assembly of Experts, but also in Qom, the theological center, to try to undermine Khamenei's position, potentially even to threatening him. Now these are now rumors, nothing is confirmed. But it's clear that Rafsanjani is opposed to Mr. Ahmadinejad's reelection.

MONTAGNE: And, of course, President Ahmadinejad is a protege if you will, of Khamenei, the supreme leader.

WRIGHT: Well...

MONTAGNE: Well, at least it's his candidate.

WRIGHT: But yes, the hard liners, the principlists as they call themselves, those who defend the principles of the revolution, were backing Ahmadinejad. But Rafsanjani is an interesting character because we all call him the Teflon mullah. He has managed to maneuver Iranian politics, often in his own preferred direction.

MONTAGNE: Now could all of this indicate a big split between these powerful clerics who run Iran?

WRIGHT: The most important part of the crisis today is the split among the very clerics who walked arm in arm, who went to prison together against the Shah and to bring down a system of government that had prevailed for 2,500 years. This is where the future of this crisis will most importantly play out.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: And we've been talking with Robin Wright, who's been covering Iran since 1973. She's the author of "Dreams and Shadows: the Future of the Middle East."

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