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Is Iran's Rouhani about to ditch his longtime patron?

Rumor has is that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is distancing himself from his longtime patron Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Iran's former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (C), Iranian former vice president Mohammad Reza Aref (centre, L) and a group of reformists pose for a photo in Tehran February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Kazempour/TIMA    TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY       ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. IT IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ON

TEHRAN, Iran — Before being elected president of Iran in June 2013, Hassan Rouhani was known as a close friend and constant companion of Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rouhani’s management of the initial round of nuclear negotiations with the West — the failed engagement with Britain, France and Germany in 2003-2005 — earned him the nickname “the Diplomat Sheikh.” However, throughout his career, including when he was secretary of the Supreme National Security Council during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, when he was removed from this post by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and finally when he started his election campaign in 2013, everyone thought of Rouhani as Rafsanjani’s right-hand man. A review of the political offices that Rouhani has held clearly shows that he has always stood alongside Rafsanjani.

When Rouhani was elected president, a majority of political analysts in Iran noted the importance of Rafsanjani in Iranian politics and the game he had played behind the scenes. Addressing members of the Joint Campaign of the Supporters of the Administration and Reformists on Feb. 19, one week before the Feb. 26 parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, Rafsanjani bluntly stated in reference to the June 2013 presidential contest, “One week before the elections, Rouhani had 3% of votes. With my support he shot up to 53%.”

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