Supreme National Security Council (SNSC)

The SNSC is tasked with debating and forming consensus on critical national security issues confronting the Iranian system. According to Article 176 of the Iranian constitution, the duties of the SNSC are threefold: determining the defense and national security policies within the framework of general policies stipulated by the supreme leader; alignment of domestic and national security policies; and ensuring the country maintains the requisite resources to defend against internal and external threats. The president serves as its chairman, and standing members include the ministers of foreign affairsintelligence, and interiorthe speaker of parliamentthe chief justicethe chief of staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, the commanders-in-chief of Iran’s Army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and two representatives of Iran’s supreme leader, one of whom usually serves as the SNSC’s secretary, who is also technically named by the president. 

The incumbent secretary is Ali Shamkhani, a former commander of both the IRGC’s Navy and the regular Navy and a former defense minister, who has held this post across two presidential administrations—those of Hassan Rouhani and Ebrahim Raisi. Rouhani himself was a secretary of the SNSC before he became president, also serving across two presidencies—those of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami. Other Iranian officials may participate in SNSC deliberations, depending on the topic. In a 2007 interview, Ali Larijani, a onetime secretary of the SNSC himself who later served as speaker of parliament, revealed the SNSC spends about 20% of its time on nuclear issues. The decisions of the SNSC are required to be approved by the supreme leader, and once he does, they become final. Under the Khatami and the Ahmadinejad presidencies, the SNSC secretary doubled as the chief nuclear negotiator for the Islamic Republic. But that structure changed during the Rouhani and Raisi presidencies, when the nuclear negotiating file was transferred to the Foreign Ministry. However, the SNSC still debates and forms consensus on nuclear policy, and after the supreme leader approves, these become binding on the Foreign Ministry to implement. The SNSC also has sub-councils, such as the National Domestic Security Council (NDSC), which is chaired by the interior minister, who is a standing member of the SNSC.

Secretaries of the Supreme National Security Council:

  • Hassan Rouhani
    1989-2005
  • Ali Larijani
    2005-2007
  • Saeed Jalili
    2007-2013
  • Ali Shamkhani
    2013-present