Former speaker of parliament and two-term President Rafsanjani is acknowledged by factional friends and foes as a heavyweight within Iran's regime. He currently heads the Assembly of Experts, the body charged with selecting the Supreme Leader, and that position gives him a powerful hand in shaping Iran's future. A wheeling-dealing pistachio baron with a large patronage base, he cuts a middle-of-the-road political figure. Unpopular with reformists for his autocratic tendencies, he is an old rival of Khamenei and more recently of Ahmadinejad, who drubbed Rafsanjani in the 2005 presidential runoff. Opposed to Ahmadinejad's hard-line foreign policy and egalitarian domestic positions he's a famous pragmatist who promoted better ties with the U.S. as long ago as the '80s he strongly warned Khamenei about the potential for election fraud. As he's a key backer of Mousavi's campaign, his efforts behind closed doors in the various unelected centers of power in Tehran are considered key to the opposition's prospects in the current showdown.
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