(1) A vast network of commissars stationed in strategic posts throughout government bureaucracies, dedicated to enforcing his authority; (2) the weak, conservative-dominated parliament, headed by Khamenei loyalist Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel (whose daughter is married to the Leader's son); (3) the rapidly rising political and economic influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, whose top leaders are directly appointed by Khamenei and have always been publicly deferential to him; (4) the political disengagement of Iran's young population ....; and (5) most significant[ly], the 2005 presidential election, which saw hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad trounce Khamenei's chief rival ... Hashemi Rafsanjani ...
Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei (Persian: سید علی حسینی خامنهای, pronounced [ʔæˈliː hoseiˈniː χɒːmeneˈʔiː] ( listen); born 17 July 1939) is a marja and the second and current Supreme Leader of Iran, in office since 1989. He was previously President of Iran from 1981 to 1989. Khamenei is the second-longest serving head of state in the Middle East (after Oman's Sultan Qaboos), as well as the second-longest serving Iranian leader of the last century, after Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
His education began at the age of four, by learning Quran at Maktab; he spent his basic and advanced levels of seminary studies at the hawza of Mashhad, under mentors such as Sheikh Hashem Qazvini and Ayatollah Milani. Then, he went to Najaf in 1957, but soon returned to Mashhad due to his father's unwillingness to let him stay there. In 1958, he settled in Qom where he attended the classes of Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi and Ruhollah Khomeini. Like many other politically active clerics at the time, Khamenei was far more involved with politics than religious scholarship.
In his speeches Khamenei regularly mentions many familiar themes of the 1979 revolution: justice, independence, self-sufficiency, Islamic government and resolute opposition to Israel and United States, while rarely mentioning other revolutionary ideals such as democracy and greater government transparency. According to Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Khamenei has "resisted Rafsanjani's attempts to find a modus vivendi with the United States, Khatami's aspirations for a more democratic Islamic state, and Ahmadinejad's penchant for outright confrontation."
In his presidential inaugural address Khamenei vowed to eliminate "deviation, liberalism, and American-influenced leftists". According to the Iran Chamber, vigorous opposition to the government, including nonviolent and violent protest, assassinations, guerrilla activity and insurrections, was answered by state repression and terror in the early 1980s, both before and during Khamenei's presidency. Thousands of rank-and-file members of insurgent groups were killed, often by revolutionary courts. By 1982, the government announced that the courts would be reined in, although various political groups continued to be repressed by the government in the first half of the 1980s.
In 1981, after the assassination of Mohammad-Ali Rajai, Khamenei was elected President of Iran by a landslide vote (97%) in the Iranian presidential election, October 1981 in which only four candidates were approved by the Council of Guardians. Khamenei became the first cleric to serve in the office. Ruhollah Khomeini had originally wanted to keep clerics out of the presidency but later changed his views. Khamenei was reelected in Iranian presidential election, 1985 where only three candidates were approved by the Council of Guardians, receiving 87% of the votes. The only Iranian presidential election that had fewer candidates approved by the Council of Guardians was the Iranian presidential election, 1989, where only two candidates were approved by the Council of Guardians to run, and Rafsanjani easily won 96% of the votes.
Since Khamenei was not a marja' at the time—which the Iranian constitution required—he was named as the temporary Supreme Leader. Later, the constitution was amended to remove that requirement and the Assembly of Experts reconvened on 6 August 1989, to reconfirm Khamenei with 60 votes out of 64 present. On 29 April 1989, responding to the letter of Ayatollah Meshkini, the head of committee responsible for revising the Constitution, asking Khomeini's viewpoint regarding the 'marjaʿiyyat criteria, Khomeini said: "...From the very beginning, I believed and insisted that there is no need for the requirements of marjaʿiyyat (authority in jurisprudence). A pious mujtahid (jurist-intellectual), who is approved by the esteemed Assembly of Experts (Majlis-i Khobregan), will suffice." In a video that surfaced during the 2017–18 Iranian protests, Khamenei is seen before the assembly saying he was not religiously qualified to be Supreme leader. Khamenei, who was ranked as a Hujjat al-Islam and not a Marja' as required by the Iranian constitution, said he would only be a "ceremonial leader", and was reassured by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani the position would be "temporary" until a referendum, apparently planned for one year later.
There have been several major protests during Khamenei's reign, including the 1994 Qazvin Protests—where, according to Al-Arabiya, around 40 people were killed and over 400 were injured— the 1999 Iranian student protests, the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, when protesters chanted "death to the dictator", and ripped down pictures of Khamenei, as well as the 2011–12 Iranian protests and 2017–18 Iranian protests, among others. In 2016, Khamenei, who outlines the elections guidelines "in line with Article 110 of Iran’s Constitution", asked to maximize the amount of transparency in elections in Iran, using modern technologies.
In late 1996, following a fatwa by Khamenei stating that music education corrupts the minds of young children, many music schools were closed and music instruction to children under the age of 16 was banned by public establishments (although private instruction continued). Khamenei stated, "The promotion of music [both traditional and Western] in schools is contrary to the goals and teachings of Islam, regardless of age and level of study."
In its 10 April 1997 ruling regarding the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, the German court issued an international arrest warrant for Iranian intelligence minister Hojjat al-Islam Ali Fallahian after declaring that the assassination had been ordered by him with knowledge of Khamenei and Rafsanjani. Iranian officials, however, have categorically denied their involvement. The then Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri dismissed the ruling as being political, untrue and unsubstantiated. The ruling led to a diplomatic crisis between the governments of Iran and several European countries, which lasted until November 1997. Darabi and Rhayel were finally released from prison on 10 December 2007 and deported back to their home countries.
In 1999, Khamenei issued a fatwa stating that it was permitted to use a third-party (donor sperm, ova or surrogacy) in fertility treatments. This was different in "both style and substance" to the fatwa on ART by Gad El-Hak Ali Gad El-Hak of Egypt's Al-Azhar University in the late 1980s which permitted ART (IVF and similar technologies) as long there is no third-party donation (of sperm, eggs, embryos, or uteruses).
On 21 February, at the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, Khamenei regarded withdrawal of Israel from south Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 as two major achievements so far. Also, he advised the Islamic countries to refrain from "useless" crises and differences and instead concentrate on the issue of Palestine which he regarded as the core issue of Islam. "Otherwise, the potentials and capabilities of the nations will go to waste in the face of vain struggles, which would provide opportunities for the Zionist regime to become even stronger," he added.
In 2002, after protests erupted in the capital, Khamenei intervened against the death sentence given to Hashem Aghajari for arguing that Muslims should re-interpret Islam rather than blindly follow Leaders. Khamenei ordered a review of the sentence against Aghajari and it was later commuted to a prison sentence.
As Supreme Leader, Khamenei has influence over elections in Iran since the Constitution of Iran allows him to appoint half of the members of the Guardian Council and the Chief Justice of Iran. The Constitution also establishes that the Council approves or disqualifies candidates for office while the Chief Justice presents the other half of the members of the Council to be selected by Parliament. These constitutional provisions give Khamenei direct and indirect influence over the Council; an entity that, in turn, has direct influence over who can run for government. This influence was evident in the 2004 parliamentary elections, in which the Guardian Council disqualified thousands of candidates from running—including 80 incumbents, many of the reformist members of Parliament, and all the candidates of the Islamic Iran Participation Front party. Subsequently, the conservatives won about 70 percent of parliamentary seats. The election became a key turning point in the country's political evolution as it marked the end of the campaign for political and social reform initiated by former President Mohammad Khatami.
Nevertheless, according to anti-regime change Activist Abbas Edalat, in 2005 Khamenei responded to a remark by then-President Ahmadinejad which had been widely translated as saying that the "regime occupying Jerusalem should be wiped off the map" by saying that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country."
On 4 June 2006, Khamenei said that Iran would disrupt Energy shipments from the Persian Gulf region (about 20% of the world's daily supply of oil passes from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz very close to Iran's coast) should the country come under attack from the US, insisting that Tehran will not give up its right to produce nuclear fuel.
On 14 September 2007, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (on the 1st Friday prayer of Ramadan) predicted that George W. Bush and American officials will one day be tried in an international Criminal court to be held "accountable" for the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. He has also blamed the United States for "blind terrorism" after its invasion of Iraq. He asserts that the United States is the main cause of insecurity in Iraq.
In a September 2008 sermon for Friday prayers in Tehran, Khamenei stated that "it is incorrect, irrational, pointless and nonsense to say that we are friends of Israeli people", because he believed that the occupation is done by the means of them. "...usurpation of houses, lands, and Business [of Palestinian people] are carried out using these people. They are the background actors of Zionist elements," said Khamenei in his speech. "...we have no Problem with Jews and Christians...we have Problem with the usurpers of Palestine land," he added. Also, he said that he had raised the issue "to spell an end to any debates". In 2013, Khamenei accused France of "kneeling" before Israel, while saying that Israel was led by people unworthy of the "title human".
In a September 2009 sermon, Khamenei was quoted as saying, that "the Zionist cancer is gnawing into the lives of Islamic nations." In another report of the same speech, he added that "we will support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world, and we are not afraid of declaring this."
In 2010, opposition Activist Ahmad Gabel was sentenced to 20 months in jail for insulting Khamenei, as well as 3 additional years for possessing a satellite receiver, a 3-year exile and a fine.
In February 2011, Ali Khamenei supported the Egyptian uprising against their government, describing it as Islamic awakening instead of Arab Spring. Trying to communicate with Arab people, he addressed Egypt's protesters in Arabic. (Iranians are not Arabs, and Iran's official language is Persian) He introduced himself as "your brother in religion", while praising the "explosion of sacred anger". Later, in "Islamic Awakening conferences" which were held in Tehran, Khamenei praised the Muslim youths of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain for what he described as Islamic awakening. He also paralleled these events with Islamic revolution in Iran during his Nowruz oration in 2011. However, major protests against the Iranian regime also broke out throughout Iran in 2011, and they became known as the 2011–12 Iranian protests.
In June 2012, Khamenei warned Western governments that the mounting sanctions on the country will only deepen the Iranians' hatred of the West.
Writing in The Telegraph, Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat observed: "The ayatollah likes to cultivate an image of austerity but receives major commissions from the Iranian oil and arms industries and there have been regular claims that he and his son have amassed a fortune running into billions of dollars." A six-month investigation by Reuters has said that Khamenei controls a "financial empire" worth approximately US$95 billion that is not overseen by the Iranian Parliament, a figure much larger than the estimated wealth of the late Shah of Iran. According to the Reuters investigation, Khamenei uses the assets of a company called Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam or "Setad" in Farsi, in order to increase his grip on power. Reuters "found no evidence that Khamenei is tapping Setad to enrich himself," but did find that he used Setad's funds, which "rival the holdings of the shah", for political expedience - "Setad gives him the financial means to operate independently of parliament and the national budget, insulating him from Iran's messy factional infighting." According to The Telegraph, money from Setad is used to fund Khamenei's Beit Rahbari compound, which employs over 500 stewards, as was reported in 2013. Hamid Vaezi, Setad's head of public relations, said the information "was far from realities and is not correct". The six-month investigation by Reuters into found that, regarding the source of Setad's funds, "Setad built its empire on the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians: members of religious minorities like Vahdat-e-Hagh, who is Baha'i, as well as Shi'ite Muslims, Business people and Iranians living abroad."
On 21 March 2014, Khamenei used a morning speech marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year, to call into question the Holocaust. He said, "the Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it's uncertain how it has happened".
On 10 September 2015, in a speech about Israel after agreement on the nuclear program of Iran, Khamenei made a remark "Israel will not exist in 25 years". For the first time, the remark was published in Khamenei's official website and his Twitter. This sentence was introduced as the best and most important sentence made by Iranian people in 2015, in an online poll conducted by his official website.
In 2017, Sina Dehghan was sentenced to death for insulting the prophet, with an additional 16-month sentence for insulting Khamenei in a messaging application.
He suggested reading The Grapes of Wrath to "an audience of Writers and artists" and Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the high-level state managers as he thought is shed light on the history of United States. "Isn’t this the government that massacred the original native inhabitants of the land of America? That wiped out the American Indians?...Today, one of the most tragic works of art is Uncle Tom’s Cabin. . . . This book still lives after almost 200 years," Khamenei said.