Thursday, October 07, 2004

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, at center of crucial vote

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, at center of crucial vote: "Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, at center of crucial vote


To: iran-news@xxxxxxxx
Subject: Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, at center of crucial vote
From: Payman Arabshahi
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 13:11:46 -0700 (PDT)
Content-length: 4734
Organization: University of Washington, Seattle


TEHRAN, Oct 21 (AFP) - Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, elected as Iran's
supreme leader in 1989, will come under scrutiny by a new Assembly
of Experts to be formed after Friday's elections.
As successor to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Khamenei,
59, enjoys extensive powers in political, religious and military
He has combined the twin posts of premier political personality
and highest religious authority since Khomeini's death in June
A former president, Khamenei was elected nine years ago to his
current post of supreme leader by the Assembly, which presently
consists of 86 clerics, all of whom are considered to be "experts"
on political and religious matters.
The Assembly, due to be re-elected by popular vote on Friday,
can in theory dismiss the leader, although such a decision seems
unlikely given the support Khamenei has traditionally enjoyed in the
conservative-dominated body.
Khamenei, who as "Vali-Faqih" is at the summit of the theocracy,
has in the past year faced an unprecedented challenge from reformers
backing President Mohammad Khatami, whose landslide election victory
in May 1997 led to growing expectations of democracy.
The president has become a symbol of political pluralism, while
Khamenei draws his legitimacy from the divine and religious aspect
of the Islamic Republic -- an issue which has played the two men's
roles against one another.
The two men, however, have had a long acquaintance and never
clashed in public. Khamenei said recently that he was close to
Khatami's late father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khatami, a widely
respected cleric in Yazd, central Iran.
But a bitter rivalry between their respective supporters has
exacerbated a fierce power struggle between the various factions in
the Islamic Republic.
Following his appointment as supreme leader, Khamenei, then
relatively young and of modest religious credentials, was widely
expected to act as a figurehead.
However, he gradually established himself as the regime's
strongman, notably at the expense of his long-time revolutionary
companion and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Khamenei, the father of six, was born into a family of clerics
from Khameneh, a small town near the great Oroumieh Lake in West
Azerbaijan province bordering Turkey.
His political activism against the former Shah earned him stints
in prison in the 1970s. In 1977, he was exiled to Iranshahr, a
remote and harsh environment in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan
After returning to Tehran, he became the imam of a major mosque
where he became famous for his fiery speeches against the imperial
regime, enjoying a dramatic rise in the wake of the 1979 Islamic
Khamenei and Rafsanjani were the minds behind the "Islamic
Revolutionary Council" which was set up after the ouster of the Shah
to govern the country, pending the formation of a government.
He was appointed deputy-minister of defense in 1979 and after
that Khomeini's representative to the "Supreme Defense Council," a
body which oversaw military matters.
In January 1980, Khamenei was appointed by Khomeini as the
permanent imam for Tehran's Friday prayers -- a position he still
Khamenei enjoys considerable prestige among members of the
Shiite clergy as well as Islamic intellectuals whom he attracts with
his passionate but methodical style of speech.
Khamenei also actively participated in the forced dismissal in
early 1981 of the Islamic Republic's first president, Abolhassan
Bani Sadr.
In June 1981, the People's Mujahedeen, Iran's main rebel group,
attempted to assassinate Khamenei in a mosque. He miraculously
survived, but suffered paralysis of his right arm.
Earning the title of "living martyr," Khamenei was elected
president in 1981 and served in that capacity for eight years -- a
period which coincided with the war against Iraq.
Following Khomeini's death in June 1989, Khamenei was by
consensus the candidate to succeed the founder of the Islamic
Republic -- after the spectacular elimination of Khomeini's
designated heir, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri.
Montazeri, currently living under house arrest in Qom, a holy
city in central Iran, has become a target of criticism of Khamenei
supporters for contesting the leader's rule.
In June, Khamenei admitted in passing to feeling ill, but his
aides insisted that the problem was not serious -- an argument
given credence by the leader's regular appearances since in public
and on television."