Key Figures and Leaders

Featured Leadership

  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

    Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

    The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on the concept of velayat-e faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), which grants a learned Islamic jurist (faqih) – a cleric tasked with interpretation of sharia (divine Islamic law) – with the role of Supreme Leader.

  • Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi

    President of Iran

    Ebrahim Raisi ascended steadily through the ranks of the Islamic Republic of Iran until his unexpected death in May of 2024. Spending most of his career in the judiciary, three factors can explain Raisi’s rise: 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 spent his career developing his image as an anti-corruption crusader—a selective crusade which did not target his close allies. In recent years, Raisi emerged as a leading candidate to succeed the 84-year-old Khamenei, but this speculation was cut short by his untimely death.

  • Brigadier General Esmail Qaani

    Commander of the IRGC's Quds Force

    On January 3, 2020, the United States assassinated Major General Qasem Soleimani, who commanded the Quds Force (QF), the external operations 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.

  • Dr. Ali Akbar Ahmadian

    Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council

    The appointment of Ali Akbar Ahmadian as the new secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) signals more continuity than change in the Iranian establishment. He replaces Ali Shamkhani, his former boss, who held the post for around a decade as the second-longest serving SNSC secretary since 1979.

  • Esmail Khatib

    Islamic Republic of Iran Minister of Intelligence

    In August 2021, the Islamic Consultative Assembly ratified President Ebrahim Raisi’s selection for Minister of Intelligence and Security, Esmail Khatib, a mid-ranking cleric who has attained the title of Hojjat ol-Eslam, which means “proof of Islam.”

  • Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei

    The New Head of Iran’s Judiciary

    On July 1, 2021, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, who has made a name for himself as a ruthless enforcer of the Islamic Republic with no regard for human rights, as the new head of the Judiciary branch. He succeeded Ebrahim Raisi after the latter was elected President of Iran.

  • Hassan Rouhani

    Former 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

    Former 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 former 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.

  • Golpayegani

    Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani

    The Supreme Leader’s Chief of Staff

    Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s chief of staff Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani does not receive much attention from Western media outlets. But Golpayegani often acts as the Supreme Leader’s chief representative and his statements and appearances therefore shed light on the Supreme Leader’s thinking and priorities. Golpayegani’s rise in the intelligence community and the Office of the Supreme Leader, the true center of power in the Islamic Republic, makes him an influential decision-shaper. Indeed, in November 2019, the U.S. Department of Treasury identified him as “one of the most senior officials within the Supreme Leader’s Office.”

  • Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

    Islamic Republic of Iran Foreign Minister

    In August 2021, President Ebrahim Raisi proposed Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to serve as his Foreign Minister and he was ratified by the Islamic Consultative Assembly on August 25, 2021. Known in Western media as a hawkish diplomat, Amir-Abdollahian is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and presents himself as the diplomatic face of the IRGC in the Middle East.