The following letter was published in the Sept. 24 edition of USA Today:
Iran's past is dubious
Eric Rozenman; Washington director, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America - Washington
USA TODAY's "Rivals of Iran's Ahmadinejad tapped for leadership posts" describes Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential elections, as "a pragmatic former president" (News, Sept. 5).
The news brief quotes a U.S. analyst who suggests that Rafsanjani's election as head of the Assembly of Experts is one indicator that Iran will try to pursue a less confrontational foreign policy. Rafsanjani's "pragmatism" should not be mistaken for moderation. Consider:
* Rafsanjani was one of the founders of the Revolutionary Guard, the secret police responsible for suppressing domestic dissidents, assassinating expatriate opponents and helping foreign terrorist movements such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.
* The government headed by Rafsanjani from 1989 to 1997 is widely believed to have been responsible for ordering the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudia Arabia, killing 19 U.S. servicemembers in 1996.
* Rafsanjani's said to have been a leader in promoting Iran's clandestine effort to acquire nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
* He has been, according to Kenneth Timmerman's Countdown To Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown With Iran, a supporter of Iranian assistance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
* At a 2001 prayer service in Tehran, Rafsanjani called for Muslims to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons.
* He has opposed former president Mohammed Khatami's limited efforts to control violence at home by the regime's security police.
Rather than pursue a less confrontational foreign policy, Rafsanjani might promote Iran's revolutionary radicalism by lower-profile means.