Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Former Iranian President, Dies At Age 82 : The Two-Way Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was a towering political figure in Iran for decades — from the 1979 revolution to current President Hassan Rouhani's surprise win in 2013. He was Iran's fourth president.
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Former Iranian President Rafsanjani, A Leading Voice For Reform, Dies At 82

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Former Iranian President Rafsanjani, A Leading Voice For Reform, Dies At 82

Former Iranian President Rafsanjani, A Leading Voice For Reform, Dies At 82

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Iran's former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has died. He was 82 years old. He was one of the leaders of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. He served as president from 1989 to 1997. And most recently, he was the leader of the moderate reformist movement. Thomas Erdbrink is the Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times, and he joins us now on the line from Tehran.

Thanks so much for being with us.

THOMAS ERDBRINK, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we understand Rafsanjani died from a stroke. What's been the reaction in Iran?

ERDBRINK: Well, of course, Rafsanjani was a towering figure here in Iran, as you mentioned in the short bio you just said. He was a man - a politician, a man of all seasons, very much loved and also very much hated at the same time. People have gathered around the hospital where he has died at 6 o'clock local time. But at the same time, other people are not so sad. They feel that he hasn't been the best leader. But overall, people see him as one of the key leaders of the revolution and a man whose death will mean that there will be some change here in Iran.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you say change, what do you mean?

ERDBRINK: Well, he was the leader of this moderate reformist faction. He was also a huge supporter of President Hassan Rouhani, who is in power right now. Now, Mr. Rouhani is up for elections in May. And Mr. Rafsanjani's support meant that a lot of people would gather behind Mr. Rouhani. Now, with not only the nuclear deal that Mr. Rouhani engineered in danger and now also the support of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani not present, it could mean that his re-election is in trouble.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does Rafsanjani's death mean more broadly for the reformist movement in Iran?

ERDBRINK: Well, Mr. Rafsanjani was a man who was always anti-American, stuck to Iranian ideology but, at the same time, was preaching, if you will, a sort of political line, saying that there should be relations with the United States. There should be an update domestically of Iran's harsh ideological rules, if you will. Now, with him gone, it is much harder for the reformers and the moderates to sort of find a voice to say this because there's just not so many people around of his generation that would agree with him.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We have about 50 seconds left. What would you say his legacy is? How will he be remembered?

ERDBRINK: Well, he will be remembered as really a key player - a king-maker even - in Iranian politics. He is and was a good friend of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, but at the same time had the stature to be able to criticize his and other policies. And yes, with him gone, people will see that it will be harder to voice certain criticisms.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran.

Thank you so much for being with us.

ERDBRINK: Thank you.

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