The death of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on January 8 marks a major turning point for Iran. For nearly 40 years, his undisguised hunger for power combined with his knack for deal making had made him the most proven kingmaker of the Islamic Republic.
In fact, without Rafsanjani, Iran’s two most important living political personalities—Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani—might never have risen through the ranks. For his part, Rouhani, stayed loyal to Rafsanjani until the very end. Khamenei, however, parted ways with Rafsanjani many years ago, shortly after he became Supreme Leader.
The two former friends became the severest of rivals, spearheading different portions of the nezam (political order) in the quest for preeminence. Theirs was not really an ideological difference, although Rafsanjani was thought of as a moderate and Khamenei as a hardliner. Rather, their dispute was always about power.