World Leaders React to Death of Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani

As reported by Jon Gambrell on January 9, for the Washington Post, reactions were heard around the world to the death of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who suffered a heart attack Sunday at the age of 82.

Saying that she hoped the Islamic Republic would fall apart with Rafsanjani’s passing, Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the political arm of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq stated, “With the death of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the two pillars and key to the equilibrium of the religious fascism ruling Iran has collapsed and the regime in its entirety is approaching overthrow.”

And Patrick Goodenough in an article for CNS News on January 8, writes that the the Iranian opposition is hopeful that Rafsanjani’s death will hasten the regime’s end.

Goodenough says, “Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died Sunday aged 82, was linked in the latter years of his life ‘reformists’ including current President Hasan Rouhani, but during his long career he was associated with some of the regime’s most controversial actions, including mass-casualty terror attacks and the assassinations of exiled dissidents. Iranian media reported that Rafsanjani died in at Tehran’s Shohada Hospital after a heart attack. Rouhani was seen visiting the hospital shortly before the news broke.”

“Rafsanjani played an outsized political and religious role in the life of the Islamic republic, serving as president from 1989-1997 (after a stint as parliamentary speaker), but also heading two of the regime’s most important institutions – the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member body of top religious’ scholars which nominates the supreme leader; and the Expediency Council, a body that advises the supreme leader,” he adds.

National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) leader Maryam Rajavi described his death as the collapse of “one of the two pillars and key to the equilibrium of the religious fascism ruling Iran.” She said in a statement that, “Rafsanjani, who had always been the regime’s number two, acted as its balancing factor and played a decisive role in its preservation. Now, the regime will lose its internal and external equilibrium.” 

In Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, Shiite Iran’s greatest regional rival, immediate condolences over Rafsanjani’s death were not expressed. A state-run television channel aired an interview with an MEK official that linked Rafsanjani to the mass execution of thousands of prisoners at the end of the country’s bloody war with Iraq in 1988.

In the U.S., White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Rafsanjani was a “prominent figure” and a “consequential figure” in Iran’s history. He said the United States was sending its condolences to the Iranian people, but Earnest declined to speculate on how Rafsanjani’s death might affect future Iranian policy toward the U.S.

A statement by Syrian President Bashar Assad said Rafsanjani was known for his “courageous and frank stances and his hard work for the sake of the dignity and freedom of the Iranian people.” He offered condolences and stated that Iran is a close ally of Assad’s government and has provided extensive military and financial support to it during Syria’s nearly six-year civil war.

On Twitter, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu offered his condolences, saying he was “deeply saddened” by Rafsanjani’s death.

Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, called Rafsanjani “a great man” and a “protector and supporter” of modern political Shiism in the Middle East. He mourned Rafsanjani’s passing as a loss to the Muslim world. Hezbollah has enjoyed Iranian financial and military support since its inception in the early 1980s.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman’s ruler, sent a telegram of condolence to Iran over Rafsanjani’s death. Oman long has served as an interlocutor between Iran and the West.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, Kuwait’s ruling emir, offered condolences, saying he “prayed to Allah the almighty to bestow blessings on the deceased.”

Qatar, which shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran, sent condolences over Rafsanjani’s death, from ruling emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The foreign minister of the tiny island of Bahrain, who has accused Iran of meddling in its affairs, simply said “God bless” Rafsanjani in a post on Twitter. A separate condolence from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to Iran said he was “praying to almighty God for his soul to rest in peace and inspire Iran’s president, its people and his family.”


Jacob Zuma, South African President, issued a statement saying his nation “acknowledges President Rafsanjani’s pioneering spirit in establishing stronger trade and political ties with African countries and South Africa.”


The United Arab Emirates, the seven-sheikhdom federation home to Dubai, which has a large ethnic Persian population, sent condolences to Iran over Rafsanjani’s death. Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, who is among the most vocal Gulf officials in criticizing Iran, said on Twitter that Rafsanjani was “one of the voices of political realism and moderation in Iran.”