The Arab world has taken to social media overnight to react to the death of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani yesterday, at the age of 82.
While Iranian relations with many Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, are very tense, Rafsanjani was a leading member of Iran's moderate movement and sought an easing of regional hostilities. Indeed, Rafsanjani even reportedly enjoyed cordial ties with high-profile Saudis.
Rafsanjani told Al Monitor in Aug 2015 that Iran did not have inherent issues with Saudi Arabia or other Arab nations "because they are Islamic and we see cooperation with them as a priority in our constitution."
Several Gulf leaders have made statements offering their condolences, although Saudi Arabia has notably not yet released any official comment.
The foreign minister of Bahrain, which has frequently accused Iran of meddling in its internal affairs, had this to say on Twitter:
R.I.P President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani , Former President of The Islamic Republic of Iran .— خالد بن احمد (@khalidalkhalifa) January 8, 2017
His words were met with some criticism from Arabs hostile to Iran:
وزير خارجية البحرين يعزي اليهود في شمعون بيريز ، و يعزي الرافضة في رفسنجاني ، باقي يعزي ابليس ! ! #وفاه_رفسنجاني pic.twitter.com/7kysG5axIA— عبدالإله الدوسري (@Abo_Osamh_) January 9, 2017
The Bahraini foreign minister offers his condolences to the Jews for Shimon Peres, and to the “rejectionists” [an unpleasant term for Shia Muslims] for Rafsanjani, all that remains is for him to offer condolences to the devil.
The Bahraini foreign minister later posted a follow-up tweet, in response:
محزن حال الكثيرين و هم يقرؤون الأحداث و لا يقرؤون التاريخ القريب .. تتكلم عواطفهم قبل عقولهم .. البلاء فينا اكثر مما في من عادانا ..— خالد بن احمد (@khalidalkhalifa) January 8, 2017
The attitudes of some people who read events without knowledge of recent history are saddening. Their emotions speak before their minds. The scourge within us is greater than our enemies
Meanwhile, Anwar Gargash, the Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and a vocal critic of Iran, tweeted:
وفاة علي أكبر هاشمي رفسنجاني أحد أصوات الواقعية السياسية والإعتدال الإيراني، إرتبط إسمه بالجمهورية والثورة ضد الشاه.— د. أنور قرقاش (@AnwarGargash) January 8, 2017
The death of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran's voices political realism and moderation, his name is associated with the Republic and the revolution against the Shah.
Qatar and Kuwait also sent their condolences on Rafsanjani's death. However, away from the politicians, many Arabs were less diplomatic in their responses.
Saudi businessman and academic, Dr Khalid al-Saud:
الإعلان رسمياً عن نفوق المجوسي " رفسنجاني " ، والله يبشرنا - عاجلاً - بنفوق الشيطان الأكبر " خامئني " .. pic.twitter.com/F0jRyXHr40— د. خالد آل سعود (@dr_khalidalsaud) January 8, 2017
The death of the "Magian" "Rafsanjani" has been officially announced. May God - soon - make us happy with the death of the Great Satan, "Khamenei"
#وفاه_رفسنجاني— سَعدُ (@sowi3d) January 8, 2017
The hell is waiting
Saudi journalist, Dr. Mahdi Abu Fatim:
#وفاه_رفسنجاني— د.مهدي أبوفطيم (@mahdi1052) January 9, 2017
موت الهالك #رفسنجاني كشف اقنعة " التقى " لدى الوجوه القبيحه الي تعزي في شخص كرس حياته لمحاربة الاسلام ....عقبال رأس الأفعى ..
The death of the deceased #Rafsanjani has stripped away the mask of "devoutness" to reveal the ugly faces of a person who dedicated his life to fighting Islam... Wishing the same for the head of the snake…
Iran and Saudi Arabia are currently engaged in a number of proxy conflicts, most notably in Syria, where the former backs the government of Bashar al-Assad and the latter the opposition rebels.
Commentators have warned that following Rafsanjani’s death, hard-line voices in Iran will be able to take greater control, possibly leading to increased Arab-Iranian animosity.
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