Friday, January 6, 2017

The New Yorker

Rafsanjani, Iran's Wiliest Politican, Dies 
By Robin Wright
During his four-decade political career, Iran’s former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani earned many nicknames. He was called the Shark, both for his smooth, hairless cheeks (reflecting his Mongol ancestry) and the killer political instincts that helped him manipulate one of the most turbulent revolutions in modern times. After the 1979 ouster of the Shah, Rafsanjani amassed so much power in fifteen years—as the speaker of parliament, President, a wartime Commander-in-Chief, and Friday Prayer Leader—that he was dubbed Akbar Shah, which means “great king.” After a revolution that ended millennia of monarchy, it was not always meant as a compliment.

Rafsanjani, who began his religious studies at the age of fourteen, was one of nine children of a prominent pistachio farmer. He studied under Ayatollah Khomeini—taking his surname from his province when he became a cleric, as is the custom—and joined the Imam’s opposition to the Shah, in 1963. After the 1979 revolution, Rafsanjani became the theocracy’s Machiavelli—at times wily and ruthless, at other times a jokester who gently cajoled followers with his famed Cheshire-cat grin. He once wept publicly over the Iranian victims of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons. He played the system until the end.
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