Khamenei appoints allies in roles vacated after Rafsanjani’s death

Ali Akbar Velayati appears to be close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has appointed his senior foreign policy advisor Ali Akbar Velayati as the head of Azad University’s board of founders in replacement of the late former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani, one of the founders of the Islamic Azad University, held that position since 1980 before death on Jan. 8.

Velayati is also the Head of the Expediency Council’s Strategic Research Center of, a body which is responsible for resolving disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council.

READ MORE: Will Rafsanjani’s death influence Iran’s regional policies?

While Rafsanjani’s power had waned considerably in recent years, his last post was head of the Expediency Council, a body assigned to apparently resolve conflicts between the regime’s parliament (Majlis) and the Guardian Council. The latter is an ultra-conservative entity with close links to Khamenei, known mainly for vetting all candidates based on their loyalty to the establishment before any so-called elections.

That body is expected to meet in the coming days to appoint a replacement.

While the rift between Rafsanjani and the Supreme Leader dates back to the early 1990s, the divide widened considerably in recent years. In 2012-2013, the Iranian regime was experiencing its most trying time in decades as the international economic sanctions crippled the Iranian economy, the population was on the verge of a rebellion and Iran's main regional ally, the Syrian regime, faced an existential threat.

READ MORE: Will Rafsanjani’s death trigger Iran regime upheaval?