September 7, 2007


Taking a bite out of Iran (MICHAEL THEODOULOU, 9/08/07, The Scotsman)

HIS sobriquet is the Shark, because of his smooth features, cunning and ambition. The last two attributes helped make Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's 73-year-old former president, one of the Islamic Republic's greatest political survivors.

Yesterday the cleric took another big step in a remarkable career comeback when he was elected leader of an obscure but powerful clerical conclave that has the power to appoint and dismiss the Islamic Republic's supreme leader. The Shark's victory could help tilt Iran away from the confrontational stand favoured by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his hardline allies. [...]

A conservative pragmatist, he is a bitter rival of Mr Ahmadinejad, the firebrand president. He favours accommodation with the West and has made clear he would handle Iran's nuclear issue in a less confrontational manner than the president.

Western diplomats made clear their preference for Mr Rafsanjani in presidential elections two years ago: he was a man with whom they felt the West could do business. But he was trounced by the little-known, back-to-revolutionary- basics anti-western firebrand Ahmadinejad, who promised to give the poor a fairer share of Iran's oil wealth.

Since then the fortunes of the two men have switched. With the economy struggling despite huge oil revenues, Mr Ahmadinejad's allies were defeated heavily in clerical and municipal elections last December. Mr Rafsanjani's star meanwhile has been on the rise.

His success in the assembly marks another defeat for hardliners allied to Mr Ahmadinejad.

Sitting down to talk with him would give the Reform movement reason to turn out in the next election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 7, 2007 8:01 PM

Darin' title, Mack.

Posted by: ghostcat at September 7, 2007 8:26 PM