of Iran's most influential political leaders, former President
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is looking to return to the helm
of the country he once lead from 1989 to 1997. If elected on June
17, 2005, his tenure would come at a crucial juncture in U.S./European-Iranian
has been a vocal critic of the United States' war against Iraq
and has led Friday prayer meetings denouncing the invasion and
Western intervention in the Middle East. In one sermon he said,
"Anyone who stretches out their hands towards Iran will have
those hands cut off."
said in a Feb. 6, 2005 USA Today article, "I have no idea
what the U.S. intends to do further there and what would be the
reaction of the Iraqi people. I only know that the sole option
is to leave Iraq to the Iraqi people."
faces probing questions about its nuclear program, which Rafsanjani
has said in the past is a right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. The United States accuses Iran of pursuing a covert nuclear
weapons program, but Tehran insists its nuclear program is solely
for civilian energy purposes. In a June 6, 2005 Time magazine
interview Rafsanjani said, "No, we're not willing to suspend.
But we're ready to provide greater assurances to the world that
we won't move from peaceful nuclear technology to military technology."
are major obstacles in the relationship between the United States
and Iran, but Rafsanjani also faces uncertainty domestically.
During the current presidency of moderate Mohammed Khatami, Rafsanjani
has leaned toward more conservative policies.
own presidency, Rafsanjani was in favor of establishing economic
relations with the Western world and was a proponent of women's
rights. But when asked by a New York Times reporter on May 25,
2005 about women in Iran wearing headscarves, Rafsanjani was vague,
saying, "We are Muslims and we enforce the Islamic law, which
is also in our constitution."
was a drawback for some young voters leading up to the 2005 election
-- the majority of eligible voters are under 30 years old.
15, told U.K.'s Independent newspaper, "We have to choose between
bad and worse and going back eight years to Rafsanjani is definitely
worse. I want to go forward."
the chancellor from Tehran's Open University for promoting the
former two-time president at an election rally.
the image of an old, out-of-touch politician, Rafsanjani created
a TV segment that showed him in a panel discussion with young
a joke about nudity, saying people should follow their taste in
clothes, according to reports. "In the Islam I know ... no
one would feel limited in their instincts," said Rafsanjani,
a supporter of the Shiite practice of temporary marriage, according
to the Christian Science Monitor.
Known as a
"smiling powerbroker" and "shrewd politician,"
Rafsanjani has been an integral figure in pre- and post-revolutionary
In the 1960s
and '70s, Rafsanjani was one of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's most
trusted advisers during the revolution. He was responsible for
many negotiations between dissident groups. When Khamenei was
thrown into exile, Rafsanjani was the lead figure in the resistance.
the second of nine children, was born in 1934 to a wealthy pistachio-growing
family in the town of Rafsanjan, which later became the family's
surname. At a young age, he moved to Qom to pursue Islamic studies.
He became politically active by taking part in Iran's pursuit
to nationalize the country's oil industry.
In 1979, he
gained power after the revolution and co-founded the Islamic Republican
Party, which had a key role in Iranian politics. In that same
year, he was almost assassinated by a group opposing Khamenei's
In 1980, Rafsanjani
was elected as parliamentary speaker to the Majlis, the Islamic
Consultative Assembly. He held the post for 10 years.
was elected president in 1989 after the death of Khamenei with
95 percent of the vote.
How he might
approach a third term is up for debate, but Rafsanjani has mentioned
a hope to re-establish relations with the Western world.
said, "We don't have any problems with the people and the
country of the United States. Whenever there has been an opportunity
of reasonable cooperation, we've seized it."
Rafsanjani serves as chairman of the Expediency Council, which
arbitrates disputes between the Majlis, Iran's parliament, and
the Guardian Council, which is the highest court in Iran. He is
also deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which appoints
the supreme leader and reconfirms him periodically.
has three sons Mohsen, Mehdi, and Yasser who was named after former
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and two daughters Fatemeh and