On June 17, Iran will hold presidential elections. The leading candidate to replace President Khatami is one of Iran's most influential politicians, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani served two terms as Iran's president, from 1989 to 1997, and has been part of the conservative establishment since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. He is now the chairman of the powerful Expediency Council.
He is vocal in his opposition to terrorism in general and state-sponsored terrorist regimes in particular. According to him, the leading offender in the latter camp is America - not Iran. In an interview with Jomhouri-ye Eslami on July 12, 2003, Rafsanjani claimed that America created the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to oppose Iran, but that they have now become "trouble" for Americans. On March 21, 2004, Gooya.com quoted him as saying that world public opinion rejects terrorism, "but the problem is that the U.S. is the standard-bearer of terrorism."
Three days after September 11, 2001, in an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency, Mr. Rafsanjani blamed America for disseminating "accusations against the Muslims, inciting public opinion, and fanning the winds of war because it cannot find the main agents behind the crime." In an interview with Hayat-e on the one month anniversary of the attacks, he said, "If the Americans also dream of reaching Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, and of containing Iran, there will be an extended Jihad within the Islamic world; there will be no security, and America will be dealing with new circumstances."
On American criticism of Iran's nuclear program, he told the IRNA on September 16, 2003, that the "U.S. campaign against Iran's peaceful nuclear activities is nothing except declaring war on Islam" and added that Iran has a right to acquire nuclear technology. "If we pursue our plans properly, the enemies would fail to prevent us from our scientific activities," he said. It should be noted that he personally signed an agreement with North Korea for the delivery of North Korean missiles in 1985 valued at $500 million, which assisted the development of Iran's Shihab missile.
Mr. Rafsanjani has followed in the footsteps of the late Ayatollah Khomeini in many ways - for example, marking World Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day by supporting Palestinian Arabs. This holiday is celebrated on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan. During the official sermon on December 14, 2001, at Tehran University, Rafsanjani stated that Muslims must surround colonialism (i.e., America and Britian) and force the colonialists to see whether Israel is beneficial to them. If one day, he said, the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons (nuclear ones) currently in Israel's possession, this global arrogance would come to an end. The use of a nuclear bomb in Israel would leave nothing on the ground, he said.
Rafsanjani is influential in dictating Iran's policy toward Palestinian Arabs. He named his third son Yasser - after Arafat. He frequently calls for the destruction of Israel. In an interview with the IRNA on April 18, 2004, he said: "Undoubtedly, the blood of Palestinian martyrs...would give rise to a new momentum among Muslims and sooner or later, the occupying Israeli government would be doomed to extinction."
In an interview with Kayhan on December 15, 2001, he said, "Jews should wait for a day when this 'extraneous matter' [Israel] would be removed from the region and from the world of Islam, and those who have gathered together in Israel would one day be dispersed again."
Following the assassination of the spiritual leader of Hamas, Rafsanjani said that no death could be more fitting for Sheikh Yassin, "who had spent his blessed life in a campaign against Israel, than to be martyred by the most merciless anti-freedom and inhumane criminals." He predicted that the "dastardly" killing would "expedite the Palestinians' ultimate victory over Israel."
Rafsanjani explained in an interview with Al-Wifaq on December 15, 2001, that the Palestinian jihad is on "the forefront of global Jihad and is the mother of many Islamic movements, ranging from the  Islamic Revolution in Iran to Islamic movements in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Central Asia, and many other Muslim states. All these Islamic movements support the Palestinian Jihad."
Many in the West have labeled Rafsanjani a moderate. His stances on America, peace in the Middle East, and Iran's nuclear weapons speak for themselves.