Ashtiani was born in 1960 in Tehran, and enlisted in the Army officer candidate school, now known as Imam Ali Officer University, in 1980, and graduated in 1982. He transferred to the prominent 23rd Special Forces Division, having met airborne, ranger, skiing, diving, and mountain qualifications. In 1984 or early 1985, then-Army Ground Forces chief and prominent figure Major General Ali Sayyad Shirazi appointed Ashtiani as an Imam Ali Officer University training instructor. According to official media, Shirazi deemed him qualified because of his experience in the Iran-Iraq war and in the fight against Kurdish militant separatists in Kordestan, a campaign known for its brutality, widespread arrests, and executions without fair trials.
Following the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, Ashtiani graduated with a master’s degree in defense affairs from Army Headquarters and Command University, and a doctorate in defense affairs from Supreme National Defense University. From 1999 to 2005, Ashtiani acted as Army Ground Forces deputy commander, and then, from 2005 to 2008, Army Overall Deputy Commander. From 2013 to 2019, he acted as Armed Forces General Staff Inspectorate deputy, and from 2019 until 2021 was Armed Forces General Staff Deputy Commander. It was in the latter capacity that he was designated by the U.S.
Ashtiani has laid out his four-year priorities in briefings to the Parliament and the media. He has vowed to continue developing technology emphasizing “missile power, air defense, drones, cyber and new warfare.” These are elements of the Islamic Republic’s asymmetric warfare doctrine and capabilities meant to compensate for Iran’s underdeveloped and aging conventional warfare arsenal.
Ashtiani has also vowed to further research and development by strengthening ties with scientific and research centers in the country. Ashtiani has also prioritized improving the standard of living and housing of armed forces personnel, which have suffered in recent years. Ashtiani has also told the media that he has cultivated close ties in the IRGC and Law Enforcement Forces that he will leverage while serving as Defense Minister.