Arab world reacts to former Iranian president’s death

Published January 9th, 2017 - 11:58 GMT
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has died (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has died (Atta Kenare/AFP)

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:

His words were met with some criticism from Arabs hostile to Iran:

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:

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:

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:

The death of the "Magian" "Rafsanjani" has been officially announced. May God - soon - make us happy with the death of the Great Satan, "Khamenei"

Saudi journalist, Dr. Mahdi Abu Fatim:

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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