Key Figures and Leaders

Featured Leadership

  • Abolqasem Salavati

    The Judge of Death

    Abolqasem Salavati is an Iranian judge infamous for violating the human rights of defendants and sentencing them to death or long prison terms on trumped-up charges. He is nicknamed “The Hanging Judge” and “The Judge of Death.”

  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

    Supreme Leader of Iran

    Under the Islamic Republic of Iran’s velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist) system of government, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the most powerful political official in Iran. His powers include “constitutional authority over the judiciary, the regular armed forces and the elite Revolutionary Guards, and the state-controlled media.” Given the power vested in Ayatollah Khamenei's position, understanding his political and ideological views—"In His Own Words"— is crucial to understanding the Iranian regime’s current domestic and foreign policies.

  • Brigadier General Esmail Qaani

    Commander of the IRGC's Qods Force

    On January 3, 2020, the United States assassinated Major General Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the Qods Force (QF), the expeditionary branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). That same day, Brigadier General Esmail Qaani, Soleimani’s longtime deputy, was named the QF’s new chief by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

  • Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi

    Chief Justice of Iran

    Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi has steadily risen through the ranks of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Spending most of his career in the judiciary, Raisi’s ascendance can be explained by three factors: promotion by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an influential family network, and a knack for leveraging state positions to feed his ambition. Raisi has spent his career developing his image as an anti-corruption crusader. In recent years, Raisi has emerged as a leading candidate to succeed Khamenei.

  • Hassan Rouhani

    President of Iran

    Hassan Rouhani has emerged victorious with 57% of the vote in the May 2017 Iranian election, defeating his primary hardline challenger Ebrahim Raisi and the five other candidates permitted to run out of over 1600 applicants. Western media accounts of the Iranian election (See here, here, here, here, here, here and here for a small sampling) incorrectly sought to portray Rouhani as a “moderate” or “reformist,” and erroneously concluded that his reelection would be a harbinger of domestic social reforms and a more conciliatory approach to foreign policy. Characterizations of Rouhani’s “moderation” ignored the reality of Rouhani’s true nature as a loyal servant of Iran’s Islamic Revolution who is dedicated to the preservation of its repressive, theocratic regime.

  • Hojatoleslam Mahmoud Alavi

    Intelligence Minister of Iran

    Hojatoleslam Mahmoud Alavi’s career has spanned Iran’s armed, deep, and elected states. He has been a legislator, a member of the Assembly of Experts, an appointee of Iran’s supreme leader, and most recently intelligence minister. Alavi is unique in that he has maintained his credibility as a national security decision-maker while simultaneously railing against the securitization of society. At times, this has caused him political problems. This profile will explore Alavi’s trajectory across Iran’s multiple power centers.

  • Major General Hossein Salami

    Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

    Major General Hossein Salami has risen through the ranks of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) since its inception after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. He served on the battlefield during the Iran-Iraq War, spent part of his career in the IRGC’s academic establishment, commanded its Air Force, served as its second-in-command, and finally was promoted to the top position as commander-in-chief in 2019.

  • Major General Mohammad Bagheri

    Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces

    Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri is the chief of staff of Iran’s Armed Forces. The chief of staff is considered the highest ranking military officer in the Islamic Republic and is responsible for the coordination and supervision of Iran’s regular army (Artesh) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

  • Major General Qassem Soleimani

    Former IRGC-Quds Force Commander

    Major General Qassem Soleimani arose from humble origins to become the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, the external expeditionary wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that oversees and carries out intelligence operations, terrorist plots, and unconventional warfare outside of Iran. The Quds Force, whose name refers to Iran’s desire to liberate al-Quds (Jerusalem) from Israeli control, is primarily tasked with spearheading the export of Iran’s Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East and coordinating the activities of the loyal terrorist proxies and militias that Iran has cultivated around the region.

  • Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf

    Speaker of Iran's Parliament

    On May 28, 2020, Iran’s parliament elected Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as speaker. Ghalibaf takes over from Ali Larijani, who was the longest-serving speaker in the history of the Islamic Republic. Parliament’s authority has eroded in recent years. The institution of a new gas policy in 2019, which circumvented the legislative chamber, is one such example. But the speaker remains relevant because he is a powerful political broker in the legislature and also holds seats on Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and the Supreme Economic Coordination Council.