Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. His final say has led to hundreds of atrocities against the people of Iran, the Middle East, and across the globe.
Since he took office as Supreme Leader in 1989, Khamenei has led Iran into numerous catastrophes. He enjoys limitless power and influence in all the country’s critical issues. However, what do we really know about him?
Khamenei was born on April 19, 1939, in Mashhad, northeast Iran. The 81-year-old leader studied at the Dianati School in his hometown. He became interested in politics at age 23. In the monarchic system’s era, he was arrested by the state security forces due to his relations with dissidents, including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
However, his fundamental beliefs and penchant for Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini divided him from the MEK. Nonetheless, he continued his relations with this organization up until the early months of the 1979 revolution.
Khamenei’s Positions in Iran’s Theocracy
In the past 41 years, he occupied different political positions, including:
- Friday prayers imam in Tehran
- Tehran MP
- Khomeini’s representative in the Supreme Defence Council
- The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) supervisor to suppress minorities in Kurdistan and Khorramshahr
- President of the Expediency Discernment Council
- Member of the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council
- President of the Constitutional Review Council
- And since 1989 until the present, Supreme Leader, following the sacking of then-second-in-command Hossein-Ali Montazeri for speaking out against the 1988 massacre of political prisoners
Khamenei also was a co-founder of the Islamic Republic Party; the main party that has seized all critical positions in Iran for over four decades. On November 4, 1979, he personally participated in front of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, inciting Khomeini’s radical followers to raid and take hostage American diplomats and the embassy staff.
Due to his loyalty to Khomeini, he was appointed as the Islamic Republic President in a sham election. Notably, all his rivals were from the Islamic Republic Party in both the 1981 and 1985 Presidential elections. Later, he nominated his prominent rival Ali Akbar Parvaresh for the Education Ministry, and Parvaresh served Khamenei for four years.
Surprisingly, Khamenei’s popularity even declined among his colleagues in the Islamic Republic Party. His rival, Mohammad Kashani from the Islamic Republic Party and Habibollah Asgar-Oladi collectively achieved 12 percent of total votes while in the 1981 elections, his three rivals collectively gained only five percent of the total votes.
Following the death of Khomeini, then-Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, promoted him to fill the Supreme Leader’s seat. Thanks to Rafsanjani’s lobby, Khamenei took power and became the Supreme Leader.
Khamenei has also been the commander-in-chief of Iran’s Armed Forces for more than 30 years.
Khamenei had initially rejected the Supreme Leader’s seat, saying, “My nomination should make us all cry tears of blood.” He claimed that “I was reassured by Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani that the position would be temporary until a referendum.” However, such a referendum never took place.
Khamenei’s Responsibility for Suppression and Terrorism
As Supreme Leader, Khamenei is responsible for all human rights violations in Iran and terror activities abroad. Khamenei’s undeniable authority enabled him to fulfill unprecedented suffocation in society. This includes torture and imprisonment of dissidents, suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, and women.
In his dark reign, Khamenei experienced several popular protests, which have constantly grown and challenged his fictional hegemony. In all cases, however, he violently suppressed the disgruntled people instead of hearing their grievances. He frequently described demonstrators as “thugs” or “hooligans,” allowing the IRGC to use lethal force to contain upheavals.
The suppression of protests in July 1999, June 2009, December 2017-January 2018, November 2019, and January 2020, which went parallel with arbitrary arrests, torture, and murder, were among the most prominent instances.
In his November 17, 2019 lecture, Khamenei ordered the IRGC to “do whatever it takes to end” protests. Following the Supreme Leader’s decree, oppressive forces killed at least 1,500 defenseless protesters with helicopters, armored vehicles, heavy machineguns, and snipers.
Khamenei is also in charge of many assassinations and terror attacks, particularly against Iranian dissidents. However, other nations were not safe versus the atrocities of Tehran’s terror squads.
Under the current Supreme Leader, the IRGC Quds Force commanded by Qassem Soleimani and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) expanded their terror attacks from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, Benghazi, several European States, Latin America, and even Washington D.C.
However, Iranian dissidents were the primary targets for Khamenei’s terror squads. Only a few months following Khomeini’s death, Tehran’s assassins murdered Prof. Kazem Rajavi, eldest brother to the Iranian Resistance’s Leader Massoud Rajavi in Switzerland.
The Islamic Republic’s terrorists targeted more dissidents, mostly affiliated to the PMOI/MEK, in neighboring countries such as Iraq. Tehran’s embassies played crucial roles in all these terror attacks.
However, the greatest plots included the foiled bombing of the MEK’s annual gathering to mark the Persian new year in Albania and the NCRI grand gathering in France in March and June 2018 respectively. European law enforcement managed to foil both terror plots and arrest the criminals, including a senior Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi.
Assadi and three accomplices are in Belgium, awaiting trial for their role in trying to bomb the Paris event. Furthermore, the Albanian government expelled Iranian ambassador Gholam-Hossein Mohammad-Nia and several of his aides due to their involvement in the foiled bomb attack against the MEK.
Meanwhile, Khamenei is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, and other regional states. Under his command, the IRGC has sponsored, organized, and trained extremist proxies in the Middle East whose hands are stained with the blood of innocent people.
Khamenei’s Economic Empire
According to a 2018 estimation by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Khamenei’s wealth is over $200 billion, with dozens of security, political, and economic institutions under his control.
These institutions and holdings that constitute Khamenei’s economic empire are as follow:
- The Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO)
- Mostazafan Foundation
- Astan-e Quds Razavi
- Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation
- Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters
- IRGC Cooperative Foundation
- Basij Cooperative Foundation
- Ghadir Investment Company
- State Security Forces (SSF) Cooperative Foundation
Indeed, while 80 percent of Iran’s population—according to official statistics—are living below the poverty line, Khamenei’s skyrocketing wealth adds insult to injury to low-income families. “The nation begs for food, Agha [the Supreme Leader] lives like God,” is one of the protesters’ slogans frequently chanted in different anti-establishment demonstrations.
The Crisis of Khamenei’s Succession
Since January 2007, the society grasped that Khamenei’s health has deteriorated following his absence in traditional ceremonies of Eid al-Adha. In September 2014, he underwent prostate surgery. However, his advanced private hospital located under his palace in Niavaran district, north of Tehran, has provided necessary equipment and medicine to keep him alive.
However, this issue could not curb political rivalries for his succession. In this respect, while Khamenei’s heir is not yet known, there is speculation around judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, who played a key role in the 1988 massacre of tens of thousands of political prisoners, and former head of the judiciary Sadeq Larijani.
“The power struggle and ambiguities surrounding Khamenei’s succession have left him and his regime in a weak state and are making it harder for him to maintain a hold on power,” stated the MEK.
In such circumstances, the death of Khamenei would put the religious dictatorship in a point of no return regarding social, economic, and political dilemmas. However, recent protests in Iran have shown the Iranian people’s determination to eradicate the entire ruling system either with Khamenei or without him.