It’s Rafsanjani, former president of Iran, current enemy of Ahmadinejad (who defeated him for the presidency two years ago), and now head of the Assembly of Experts, the Shiite version of the College of Cardinals. He’s known for being marginally less of a fanatic than the “conservatives” who populate the Assembly, which makes his selection interesting, especially in light of Khamenei’s move this weekend to install a hardliner as the new chief of the Revolutionary Guard. From the AP piece:

Rafsanjani defeated Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, an extremist within the hard-line camp who received 34 votes for the Assembly of Experts leadership, state-run television reported.

While Jannati is among the proponents of the theory that the legitimacy of Iran’s clerics to rule the country is derived from God, Rafsanjani is believed to side with pro-democracy reformers who believe the government’s authority is derived from popular elections.

He also received the most votes in the popular election to the Assembly of Experts late last year. Either the regime is playing a stick-and-carrot game with the U.S. by moving Rafsanjani up the ladder to offset Ahmadinejad’s bellicosity and signal it may be open to some kind of diplomatic deal or there’s a legitimate power struggle between the “pragmatists” and the hardliners and someone at the top is getting nervous that the latter group has too much influence right now. Whichever it is, it’s worth flagging now, especially since this puts Rafsanjani in position to succeed Khamenei when he dies or quits.