August 1, 2010
Jaras, a website affiliated with the supporters of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has published this week a two-part report offering a rare glimpse into the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the key personalities surrounding him.
According to the report, the responsibility for the security of the Supreme Leader and his office belongs to a special Revolutionary Guards unit called Sepah-e Vali Amr, directed by Asghar Hejazi, the head of security in the Supreme Leader’s office (a separate Revolutionary Guards unit, Ansar-ol-mehdi, is responsible for the security of all the other top regime officials in Tehran).
As already mentioned, Asghar Hejazi is the head of security in the Supreme Leader’s office; however, his influence exceeds his official title. For years, he has been considered the most influential figure in the Supreme Leader’s office, even though he strictly avoids making public appearances or being photographed. Hejazi’s influence in the Supreme Leader’s office grew considerably stronger during Mohammad Khatami’s presidential term (1997-2005), when many of the president’s powers in the sphere of security, including the struggle against regime opponents, were handed over to Hejazi. He cooperated with elements from the Revolutionary Guards and from the judiciary, as well as with former members of the Ministry of Intelligence who had been sacked following the wave of murders of intellectuals and regime opponents in the late ‘90s.
During Khamenei’s presidential term (1981-1989), Hejazi served as the head of Foreign Security Department in the Intelligence Ministry; during Khatami’s term, he cooperated with Mohammad Baqer Zol-Qadr, the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, in supporting the radical group Ansar Hezbollah, which acted against the supporters of the reformist camp.
In recent years, Hejazi’s influence has somewhat diminished for two main reasons: the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which resulted in the restoration of some of the powers handed over to the Supreme Leader’s office during Khatami’s tenure back to the presidential office; and the growing influence of young radical clerics, mainly the Supreme Leader’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei. This does not imply, however, that there is rivalry or power struggles between Mojtaba and Hejazi. This owes to Mojtaba’s respectful attitude towards Hejazi in matters pertaining to security or the Supreme Leader’s office, and to the fact that the Supreme Leader still considers Hejazi to be a uniquely skilled individual.
Another personality of influence in the Supreme Leader’s office is “Vahid”, a former Revolutionary Guards commander who is currently the deputy chief of the Supreme Leader’s office. There is little information regarding “Vahid”; even his full name is unknown (although some claim that his full name is Vahid Haqqani). A great deal of false information has been published about “Vahid”, and many confuse him with Ahmad Vahidi, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force (currently the Minister of Defense), or Ahmad Vahid (whose full name is Ahmadi Vahid Dastjerdi), the acting Minister of Defense.
Vahid’s presence in the Supreme Leader’s office first became known on the eve of the presidential election, appearing at the Supreme Leader’s side during his trip to Kurdistan Province. Vahid then played a major role in Ahmadinejad’s swearing-in ceremony. Vahid also played a major role in the Supreme Leader’s first Friday prayer after the last presidential election; he appears to have been responsible for the seating arrangements of top regime officials during the sermon.
After the election, a senior official from the election campaign staff of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi related on his personal blog that, when the first election results were published, he was asked by Mousavi to deliver to the Supreme Leader a letter warning about election forgery. Upon arriving in the Supreme Leader’s office, he handed the letter to Vahid, who informed him that the election results favored Ahmadinejad and that there was no point in bringing up reservations about the results. Vahid was also involved in an incident with the daughter of Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Fatemeh Hashemi, who met with him following the television debate between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi which took place during the presidential election campaign, and in which the president strongly lashed out against Rafsanjani. When Fatemeh came to the Supreme Leader’s office to submit her protest against the president, she was threatened by Vahidi. Shortly afterwards, the license of a school in Tehran established by Fatemeh was revoked, and its principal was arrested.
Another key figure in the Supreme Leader’s office is Khamenei’s second son, Mojtaba Hosseini Khamenei (born 1959, as seen in above photo, in blue robe, next to Vahid and his father). Even though he holds no official position in the Supreme Leader’s office, he commands considerable influence there, is involved in many sensitive issues, and takes part in unofficial consultations in the office as his father’s representative. He also has close relations with senior Revolutionary Guards and Basij officials.
Mojtaba received his religious education from the top conservative clerics Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, and Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharazi; he also participates in weekly religion classes in the city of Qom. Those close to Khamenei claim that Mojtaba has become a certified religious jurist, even though that claim seems exaggerated in light of his young age and numerous occupations which do not pertain to religious studies.
He first became involved in politics during the 2005 presidential campaign, at which time he was an activist in the election campaign staff of the conservative candidate, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who is currently the mayor of Tehran. He changed his mind shortly prior to the election and shifted his support to Ahmadinejad. Several rumors claim that the Supreme Leader decided to support Ahmadinejad due to Mojtaba’s influence, having been convinced that Qalibaf was taking an overly moderate approach with regard to the West and had no intention of fighting the reformists. Some of the regime’s opponents claim that Khamenei would like to appoint his son as his successor after his death; however, those claims cannot be confirmed.
Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani is the chief of Khamenei’s office. Even though his is officially the highest-ranking position in the office, his actual influence is insignificant compared to Hejazi or Vahid. He is fairly uninvolved in political or security-related affairs, settling for his official, ceremonial position. Rumors say that Golpayegani is married to an Irish woman he met while on a trip to London.
He frequently takes place in official and public functions as the Supreme Leader’s representative and delivers messages on his behalf at various ceremonies. He usually refrains from taking a stand on political issues or intervening in domestic political conflicts.
Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri is the head of the Supreme Leader’s inspectorate; however, his influence in the office is not significant. In his capacity, he is in charge of addressing complaints from civilians and senior officials who visit the Supreme Leader’s office, and has no considerable influence on sensitive political and security-related affairs. One major reason for his limited influence on such issues is his strong opposition to President Ahmadinejad and his supporters. Nateq-Nouri’s influence in the office has become considerably smaller since the last presidential election due to his undeclared support for Mir-Hossein Mousavi during the election campaign. During the election campaign, Ahmadinejad even accused Nateq-Nouri of financial corruption, while the Supreme Leader refrained from siding with Nateq-Nouri on that issue. During the riots which broke out after the presidential election, Nateq-Nouri, who also serves as a member of the Expediency Discernment Council, refrained from siding with the government against Mousavi. He is considered a close associate of Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the Expediency Discernment Council.
Hossein Ta’eb, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence bureau, is yet another cleric who enjoys Khamenei’s trust and has good connections in the Supreme Leader’s office. In addition to his security-related and military roles, he is considered very close to the Supreme Leader, since he was his student during private religion classes and because he served alongside Mojtaba Khamenei in the last days of the Iran-Iraq War and became one of his closest friends.
He formerly served as deputy intelligence minister but was removed from duty during the presidential tenure of Rafsanjani, whom he antagonizes ever since. After his removal from the Ministry of Intelligence, Ta’eb went on to become the chief of Coordination Department in the Supreme Leader’s office. He subsequently served as the head of Culture Department in the joint Revolutionary Guards headquarters, and fulfilled a key position in the Revolutionary Guards’ Imam Hossein University. He was later appointed the commander of the Basij forces, and in 2009 he was appointed head of the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence bureau. He has close relations with Ahmadinejad and even facilitated his election in his capacity as commander of the Basij; he also played a major role in repressing the riots which broke out after the election. Ahmadinejad sought to appoint him the minister of intelligence, but was forced to back down due to the resistance of several top officials in the Ministry of Intelligence.
In addition, there are several other people serving as the Supreme Leader’s advisors: Davoud Danesh Ja’fari is his advisor on economic affairs; Ali Akbar Velayati serves as his advisor on international affairs; and Rahim Safavi is his advisor on security affairs. Those official advisors do not play major roles in the Supreme Leader’s office, their positions being mostly ceremonial (Jaras, July 23, 25).
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