President Obama's Iran nuclear deal was sold to the public based upon the notion that Iranian moderates were in power and that the U.S. had to seize the opportunity.  Hailed as a great moderate was former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ,who died Saturday. He was central to the Iran nuclear deal hammered out by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Just how moderate was Mr. Moderate? The Wall Street Journal debunks Rafsanjani's supposed moderation this morning:

The totalitarian theocracy that replaced the Peacock Throne after the 1979 revolution was as much Rafsanjani’s creation as Khomeini’s. Khomeini provided the theological underpinnings for his model of absolute clerical rule. But it was Rafsanjani who fleshed out the ideas, as speaker of Parliament in the 1980s and president for much of the ’90s.

Rafsanjani delivered the wake-up call to Iranian liberals and leftists, who still dreamt of sharing power with the Islamists. “Until we had our people in place,” he told one such liberal in 1981, “we were ready to tolerate [other] gentlemen on the stage.” But now the regime would brook no faction but those that followed the “Line of the Imam”—Khomeini. A decade of purges, prison rapes and executions followed.

Khomeini’s death in 1989 occasioned Rafsanjani’s worst political misstep. Thinking he could puppeteer events behind the scenes, Rafsanjani successfully promoted his archrival, Ali Khamenei, as the next supreme leader. But Mr. Khamenei, far more assertive than Rafsanjani had imagined, soon consolidated power.

The regime’s Western apologists framed that rivalry as a genuine ideological conflict between the “hard-line” Mr. Khamenei and the “pragmatic,” “moderate” Rafsanjani (along with others, such as current President Hassan Rouhani). President Obama’s nuclear deal was premised on the same fantasy: Rafsanjani had accumulated vast, ill-gotten wealth—here’s someone with whom we can do business.

Yet Rafsanjani never failed to follow the “Line of the Imam,” not least in foreign affairs. Khomeini turned terror into a plank of Iranian statecraft, and so it remained.

The column notes that a New York Times reporter tweeted that Rafsanjani's death was "a major blow to moderates and reformists in Iran.”

The NPR report on Rafsanjani's death describes him as "a major voice for reform."

According to Reuters, Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University, says that Rafsanjani's death means that hewon't be there to minimize the inevitable blunders of the Trump administration:

"With what is happening in the U.S. and the possible instability that is going to come in U.S. policy you needed a voice of reason and pragmatism that had some heft to it. He was that voice."

"Losing that voice is going to make it more likely that any mishap or miscalculation by the Trump team will beget a more unreasonable, more radical, more potentially destructive response by the Iranian regime," he added.

Rafsanjani as a suave moderate who could have smoothed out the blunders of Donald Trump–well, I guess that is more comforting in some quarters than the view of Rafsanjani as a suave hardliner who hoodwinked Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry.