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Khamenei realized he could not return to Mashhad, his family, or his studies for the foreseeable future. Towards the end of , some of the cell members who had been arrested were released from prison. This emboldened the revolutionaries who had gone into hiding, including 75 76 ali khamenei Khamenei, who promptly returned to Mashhad. He was soon released and returned to Mashhad, where he resumed teaching theology and Koran studies to seminary students, a radical Islamist message always folded within his lessons.

Finding His Voice These sermons and lectures struck a chord with fellow clerics, students, and average Iranians, and soon people were traveling from all over Iran to hear Khamenei speak. SAVAK agents frequently interrupted and canceled his classes, which Khamenei began holding in many locations to keep his pursuers off balance.

During this period, Khamenei also accepted several offers to become the imam of various mosques in Mashhad, where his responsibilities were teaching, preaching, and the leading of prayers. Building Revolutionary Pressure and Further Imprisonment All of this activity brought him to the attention of several armed revolutionary groups, who contacted him and explored areas of cooperation.

When one of these groups detonated a bomb during official government celebrations of the 2,th anniversary of Iranian monarchy in , Ali Khamenei was one of the suspects rounded up and imprisoned. Once again he claims to have suffered abuse and torture during the detention, and, once again, upon his release, he remained unbowed and simply picked up where he left off, denouncing the shah and preaching revolution.

For the next few years, SAVAK agents regularly monitored, harassed, detained, and interrogated Khamenei, interrupting his classes and shutting down the mosques in which he preached and led prayers.

Yet, to counteract these disruptions, his lectures were handwritten or printed and distributed throughout Iran. Unrest and open talk of revolution were rising. The shah believed a crackdown was necessary. The sensitivity and severity of the former regime against me had increased.

Because of the circumstances, they were no longer able to ignore people such as myself. The harsh attitude of SAVAK indicated that the System was very afraid of an armed revolution being accompanied with a sound Islamic ideology. They could no longer believe that my intellectual activism and propagation in Mashhad and Tehran had nothing to do with the developing situation.

What followed for Khamenei was a year of extremely harsh imprisonment. Sometimes he was in solitary confinement. Sometimes he was placed in a cell with several other prisoners and allegedly tortured. Prisoners were said to have been beaten to the point of unconsciousness, then revived, only to be beaten again.

When Jimmy Carter was elected to the U. One of these men was Ali Khamenei. He had plenty of time to focus on these efforts since he was now banned from teaching and preaching. Khomeini decided to again organize secret revolutionary cells, each one composed of mujahideen members and led by radical clerics. Ali Khamenei was one of five clerics who met to discuss and orchestrate the formation of these cells. This new militant organization became known as the Mujahideen Ulema League an ulema is a cleric.

Once again, in , he was taken into custody. Instead of being imprisoned again, however, he, like his mentor and leader Ayatollah Khomeini, was forced into exile. Khamenei was sent to Iranshahr, a city in southeastern Iran.

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He courted local mujahideen and brought together rival Shiite and Sunni groups to join the revolutionary struggle. Following a devastating series of rains and floods, he organized local seminary students into a relief committee.

The seeds of revolution so painstakingly planted by Ayatollah Khomeini, Ali Khamenei, and other radical clerics began to burgeon in He sneaked back to Mashhad and became one of six radical clerics handpicked by Khomeini— who was now living in exile in Paris, France—to form and head up the Revolutionary Command Council. They believed they had formed a coalition of interest groups intent on toppling the shah and then forming a unity government composed of power-sharing factions.

Ali Khamenei was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council and was known for his participation in rallies and his passionate speeches. Khamenei was a vital member of the council. Once the shah was deposed, he intended to fill the power vacuum and the Iranian revolution Sixty-three U. Widely despised throughout the Middle East for his friendship with the United States and Israel, and unpopular with much of the rest of the world for his poor human rights record, the shah and his wife bounced from country to country in a globe-trotting exile.

President Carter had been unwilling to offer him asylum because of his murderous reputation, but at this point the shah was suffering from terminal cancer. For humanitarian reasons, Carter allowed the former shah of Iran to enter the United States for medical treatment, an action that was used as the justification for the Iranian hostage crisis of —, in which 63 U.

Though the shah left the United States in December , the hostage crisis dragged on until early , when the students released the Iranian revolution the Americans mere minutes after Ronald Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter as U.

After leaving the United States, the shah briefly stayed in Panama, then returned to Egypt, where he died on July 27, In less than two weeks, he replaced the interim pro-democracy prime minister with someone of his own choosing, and he convinced many members of the Iranian armed forces to join his cause.

The army, sensing the sea change underway, remained officially neutral and allowed Khomeini to seize the reins of power. By the end of March, a referendum popular polling of citizens resulted in the official dismantling of the centuries-old Iranian monarchy, creating a republic in its place an elected government led by a president or prime minister, instead of a royal figure.

In the early post-revolution days, Ayatollah Khomeini promised Iranians that he would establish a democracy—a popularly elected government free of clerical rule or any form of tyranny and repression. Yet within a few months of his triumphant return to Iran, Khomeini set about purging the provisional government of his former liberal and secular revolutionary allies and shutting down many newspaper offices.

He declared his intention to set up a theocracy— a government ruled by religious leaders whose authority is said to come directly from God and whose policies are thought to be divinely inspired and mandated thereby making political opposition among believers nearly impossible. Trusting in the persuasive power of his charisma and enormous popularity, he had the audacity to present his imposition of a repressive theocracy as a blessing for the 85 86 ali khamenei The office of supreme leader, which was designed by and for Khomeini himself, granted him nearly unlimited powers over the government and people of Iran.

An Assembly of Experts was also created. Khomeini tampered with the election process and loaded the assembly with his own loyalists. He was given command over the army and Revolutionary Guards. He could dismiss the Iranian revolution After spending 14 years in exile, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran on February 1, , after Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, shah of Iran, fled the country.

Khomeini led the Iranian Revolution and became the Iranian supreme leader. He transformed Iran from a monarchy to an Islamic republic and remained in power until his death in Khomeini could only be removed by the Assembly of Experts, but he had made sure to stock that group with loyalists who would never dare to oppose or betray him.

Khomeini also forged a close relationship with the bonyads—large foundations run by the Iranian business elite that control most of the money and economic and commercial activity in Iran.

They were answerable only to the supreme leader but otherwise were given free rein to conduct business. In exchange, they threw their considerable power and influence behind Khomeini and his movement, protecting him from any rebelliousness among the political opposition or the people.

Men were not allowed to wear shorts, and women always had to wear socks and loosefitting pants, dresses, coats, and jackets. Women could not ride bicycles, and unmarried men and women could not dance or hold hands in public and had to be chaperoned when out on dates.

Pop music and American and European films were banned. All schools and universities adopted an Islamic curriculum. Newspapers that expressed opposition to Khomeini and his anti-democratic policies were shut down, their editors arrested. Members of the Iranian revolution some religious minorities were denied jobs and entrance to universities and, in some cases, persecuted and imprisoned. Muslim converts to other religions could even be executed.

There is no reason to believe that Ali Khamenei had any reservations about the progress of the post-revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran. The shah was overthrown, he had seized power and purged his enemies and former allies alike, and he had created a theocratic state, ruled by sharia law and dominated by his close allies and committed followers.

He had won, and his vision of an Islamist Iran was now a reality. Now he could turn his attention to rewarding those clerics and supporters who had fought alongside him for more than 15 years of harassment, imprisonment, torture, and exile.

And in rewarding them with important government appointments, he was also ensuring that he maintained a tight grip on power. One of the first clerics he showed his favor and gratitude to was Ali Khamenei, his longtime star pupil and trusted revolutionary.

Secretary general of the Islamic Republic Party. Deputy minister of defense. Chairman of the Cultural Revolution Council. President of the Expediency Council which mediates and resolves disputes between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians and advises the supreme leader. Chairman of the Committee for the Revision of the Constitution. Yet none of these positions of authority and influence came close to the seats of power that Ali Khamenei would ultimately occupy. The two men believed that Iran should forge a relationship with Western countries in order to gain weapons and support for its war against Iraq.

At that time, the United States was also secretly sending support to Iraq. He was hospitalized for several months and suffered permanent damage to his arm, vocal chords, and lungs. In the hospital, Khamenei received a telegram from Ayatollah Khomeini himself. Anti-revolutionary forces have attacked you, not for any crime you have committed but because you are a loyal soldier at the front, a teacher in the prayer niche, an eloquent orator in [Friday] and congregational prayers, and a faithful guide in the arena of the revolution.

Ali Khamenei was no doubt cheered and moved by this high praise from his mentor and idol. Far from daunted or shaken by the assassination attempt, Khamenei interpreted his survival as proof of the great responsibilities and glorious destiny that still lay ahead for him: At the time, I did not know the nature of the task.

Ali Khamenei was correct in sensing that a new task and solemn duty was about to be thrust upon him. Both men were Khomeini loyalists and committed to the revolution. They had both been involved in the post-revolution effort to purge Iranian universities of European and American influences. He turned to one of his most trusted and loyal assistants—Ali Khamenei—and urged the ruling clerics in the Council of Guardians to approve him as a presidential candidate. Ali Khamenei was elected by a large majority 95 percent of the Iranian people in early October and became the third president of the republic.

He was the first cleric to hold the office. Khomeini had originally claimed he wished to keep the presidency free of clerical influence, but he must have come to recognize the value of having one of his closest loyalists in this seat of power. Having Ali Khamenei serve as president allowed Ayatollah Khomeini to consolidate his power and gain an even tighter grip on the nation and its government.

Yet Khamenei did begin to earn a reputation as a pragmatic cleric who represented a slightly more moderate stance than that of Ayatollah Khomeini. In partnership with the speaker of the Majlis, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ali Khamenei urged a more liberal foreign policy than that advocated by Khomeini and the hard-line senior clerics.

Indeed, Rafsanjani hammered out a secret deal with the administration of U. Iran would also no longer try to export its Islamic revolution through calls to violent uprising in Muslim nations, but instead would inspire by example and encourage peaceful transitions to Islamic rule throughout the Middle East.

Surprisingly, Ayatollah Khomeini was said to have supported this new foreign policy initiative, despite its moderation. The Iran-Iraq War Ali Khamenei further demonstrated moderate tendencies when he, again in partnership with Speaker Rafsanjani, supported an end to the eight-year Iran-Iraq War without achieving military victory.

This war had begun in when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, sensing weakness and chaos in post-revolution Iran and intent upon seizing control of some Iranian territory and oil fields, invaded his neighbor. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was responsible for creating a deal with the United States, who would supply Iran with weapons for its war with Iraq.

Fired by their renewed sense of ancient wrongs and emboldened by a zealous nationalism in the wake of the revolution and establishment of the republic, millions of young Iranians rushed to the front and fought for their god and their country. As the war ground on, however, and casualties mounted to, by some estimates, as high as a million, more and more Iranians realized that victory remained distant and a solution had to be reached. Over the protests of senior clerics, Ali Khamenei and Speaker Rafsanjani spoke to Khomeini and convinced him to agree to an end to hostilities.

On July 20, , as quoted in Kenneth M. Taking this decision was more deadly than drinking hemlock. To me, it would have been more bearable to accept death and martyrdom. Though Khomeini had long vowed to die before giving up the fight with Iraq, he bowed to reality, recognizing that the republic he had fought to establish could crumble if the war were to continue. The presidency offered Khamenei very little real authority.

The position mainly served to create the illusion of a balance of power in the Iranian government and that some kind of system of checks and balances was in place. The Death of Ayatollah Khomeini Yet the time was drawing near when Ali Khamenei—and all of Iran—would have to continue down the road of national destiny without the rigid guidance and iron leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Terminally ill from cancer and suffering from internal bleeding, the once commanding and seemingly infallible supreme leader of the revolution was admitted to a hospital in May and died less than two weeks later on June 3.

Despite the harsh repressiveness of his regime, millions of Iranians poured into the streets nationwide, expressing genuine shock and grief. The first attempt at a funeral procession had to be canceled when his wooden casket was mobbed and nearly overturned and torn apart by mourners.

The body itself almost fell to the ground as spectators grabbed for the burial shroud wrapped around Khomeini. The second funeral procession featured heavily armed security and a steel casket. The Next Supreme Leader Clearly, the reverence and awe that many Iranians felt for Khomeini from his earliest days as a radical cleric 30 years before had remained largely undiminished. Khomeini was the father of the post-revolution Republic of Iran, and he would not be easily replaced.

Whoever followed him as supreme leader would have enormous shoes to fill and would almost 99 ali khamenei certainly suffer in comparison with Khomeini and not command the same respect, affection, and admiration. The next supreme leader had no apparent mandate—certainly not from the Council of Guardians or Assembly of Experts—to seek political or social change or loosen the tight bonds between religion, government, and society. Whoever was chosen to replace Khomeini would occupy a very different position of leadership.

He would have to share power with and mediate between the often liberal-leaning parliamentarians in the Majlis and the Iranian citizens they represented who would no longer be cowed by Khomeini and many of whom were beginning to agitate for greater freedoms and the conservative fundamentalist Council of Guardians.

He would be supreme leader, but one who had to listen to the opinions of various political factions and respect the influence and authority of other branches of Iranian government.

He spoke out publicly in favor of greater freedom of the press and more humane treatment of political prisoners. In a letter ali khamenei Khomeini is said to have expressed his wishes, while on his deathbed, that Ali Khamenei be chosen as his replacement. He claimed that Iran was becoming known worldwide primarily for its politically motivated executions. Needless to say, Montazeri fell out of favor with Khomeini and the conservative ruling clerics. With the heir apparent on the outs, Khomeini is said to have expressed his wishes, while on his deathbed, that Ali Khamenei be chosen as his replacement.

His clerical education had been interrupted when he left Qom to care for his father, and his revolutionary activities of the mids and s further prevented his studies. He remained a relatively low-ranking cleric, a hojjat-ol Islam. They felt he could be easily controlled and influenced. The Assembly of Experts made their peace with the selection of Ali Khamenei as supreme leader. Much remained to be done, however, to make the appointment legitimate.

Forty-two changes had to be made to the constitution to lower the religious requirements for the position. In addition, the assembly hastily conferred him with the title of ayatollah, though they opted not to grant him the honor of grand ayatollah. Several years later, they also rejected his proposed elevation to the status of marja-e taqlid for Shiites in Iran; in a compromise, however, he was allowed to serve as a marja to Shiites living outside of Iran.

He understood that he was viewed by his peers as something of a lightweight—a cleric whose theological writings and academic achievements were elementary and lackluster and who was honored with the title ayatollah in haste and for the sake of political convenience. Many observers believe ali khamenei Khameini understood that he was viewed by his peers as a cleric who was honored with the title ayatollah in haste and for the sake of political convenience.

These radical clerics dominated the Council of Guardians, the Assembly of Experts, and the judiciary, and commanded the loyalty of the armed forces, so if Ayatollah Khamenei hoped to wield any power as supreme leader, he needed to align himself with the conservative clergy.

Years of revolution, war, international sanctions, foreign debt, lowering oil prices, and mismanagement by clerics untrained in economics had left the economy in dire shape. Rafsanjani surrounded himself with cabinet members and advisers who were educated in European and American universities, and he urged Iranian professionals and businesspeople who had left Iran during the reign of Khomeini to return home and lend their expertise, resources, and investment dollars to the struggling republic.

He allowed certain Western music, movies, and beauty products to be sold in Iran. In addition, the strict Islamic dress code was loosened in larger cities like Tehran. In the photograph above, Iranian women walk down the street wearing Western-style coats and bags. These were all courses of action that would have been unthinkable in the Khomeini years. Even Islamic dress codes were unofficially relaxed in big cities like Tehran.

While currying favor with conservative clerics on the Council of Guardians by undercutting the authority of President Rafsanjani, Ayatollah Khamenei also set about to strengthen his position among these clerics and consolidate his power. Officially, the candidates were rejected because of some questionable behavior in their past, a lack of experience with Islamic jurisprudence, or their refusal to take a theological test demanded by Khamenei.

Because the Assembly of Experts was empowered to supervise, guide, and even remove the supreme leader, it was important to Ayatollah Khamenei to stock the assembly with allies—clerics who would not oppose or antagonize him or seek to undercut his authority. He also directed the Council of Guardians to disqualify any candidates for the Majlis with whom he disagreed, particularly liberal reformers and socialists.

Thus, conservatives soon gained a majority in the Majlis, typically a more liberal-leaning Iranian government institution. The Liberalization Movement Stalls While Ayatollah Khamenei was strengthening his support among the conservative clergy and gaining greater control over the Assembly of Experts and Majlis, President Rafsanjani was facing reelection. With his liberalization initiatives stalled and blocked by Khamenei and the economy continuing to falter, many Iranians felt disappointed with the man who seemed to offer so much hope for better, freer times back in Rafsanjani won reelection, but by a much smaller margin than in his first campaign.

The economy continued to stagnate, and the reduction and elimination of subsidies had led to increased prices for basic necessities, consumer goods, and services. Unemployment, especially among Iranian youths, was high, ali khamenei hovering around 30 percent.

Social restrictions were as tight and repressive as ever. Despair and anger began to percolate on the streets, which were the scene of riots in and As supreme leader, he used his veto power over Majlis legislation when necessary.

Just as Khamenei had found years earlier, Rafsanjani discovered that the office of the president was not nearly powerful enough to do battle with the entrenched religious and business interests and effect a true reform of Iranian society. A New Reformer Emerges Though the Iranian populace had grown disenchanted with Rafsanjani and his reform efforts, this did not mean that their allegiances lay with Ayatollah Khamenei and the fundamentalist clergy and politicians.

Indeed, as the next presidential election cycle approached in , much popular support began to center upon a reformist intellectual and cleric named Muhammad Khatami. Under Rafsanjani, Muhammad Khatami had served as the minister of culture and Islamic guidance. After being dismissed, Khatami supplemented his Islamic theology studies with classes in Western philosophy and began to advocate pro-democracy views.

As the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed his election. Khatami further argued that, in order to hold the loyalties of young Iranians and reenergize the nation, Islam must adapt to the modern age.

His Islamic and revolutionary credentials were rock solid, seeming to provide him with some leverage against the obstructing conservative clerics in the Majlis and Council of Guardians. He began to enjoy much popular support, and many Iranians came to believe he was the best chance for reform, freedom, and a more open society.

He won the presidential election in a landslide, and, as required by the constitution, Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed his election. He promised to reduce the tyrannical rule of the clerics, respect civil liberties, and enlarge personal freedoms. He wished to establish a governing culture that was less defined and motivated by religious superstition and fanaticism.

He intended to increase freedom of the press, decriminalize free expression and dissent, and nourish less restricted and censored cultural and artistic expression. Even more shocking and exciting to many Iranians, who had long endured the social repression and national isolation imposed by the ruling clerics, President Khatami wished to rejoin the community of nations and foster friendly and productive relations, even with former archenemies, including the United States.

Mutual respect was the only real prerequisite for friendship. The new president even went so far as to praise the American people and suggest a discussion and an exchange of ideas between the people of both nations. Yet, no doubt sensing he was courting the wrath of Ayatollah Khamenei and the ruling clerics, Khatami also insisted that the United States was entirely responsible for poor relations with Iran and its attitude must change before the relationship could improve.

In addition, he singled out Israel as the one nation in the world with whom Iran would never have good relations. Though he introduced startling new ideas and debates into the Iranian political scene, actual social and foreign policy progress would remain small.

Permits were readily granted for the formation of reform groups and the staging of political gatherings. Iran even mended fences with Saudi Arabia and the European Union, two longtime adversaries. These gains would prove to be short-lived, however.

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Conservative forces were aligning against Khatami and his Tehran Spring. They quickly swung into action, first with stern words of warning and condemnation, then with a crackdown. Khamenei also urged his fellow clerics and officials under his control to sound ominous notes of warning as well. The clerics—and with them the military, the bonyads, the Council of Experts, the state press, and the judiciary—closed ranks and effectively stifled the reform movement.

Using the judiciary and security services, Ayatollah Khamenei and the hard-liners shut down newspapers and other media outlets, imprisoned key reform leaders on trumped-up charges, and, through the Council of Guardians, vetoed reformist legislation and disqualified their political candidates from elections. They also lost faith in Khatami. Khatami had a large student following due to his allowance of personal freedoms and civil liberties. This closure led to campus protests that quickly spread to other cities and ignited large anti-regime demonstrations and riots.

The students looked to Khatami for support and hoped this might be the spark of a new revolution, or at the very least a decisive shift of power toward the reformists.

Yet Khatami, ever cautious and wary of taking on Ayatollah Khamenei and the radical clerics head-on, refused to align himself with the freepress rioters. Instead, he pleaded with them to halt their demonstrations, then ultimately joined Khamenei in condemning the riots. At this point, it became clear that Khatami had been neutralized by Ayatollah Khamenei and the ruling elite.

He easily won reelection in , but the turnout was lower than in , and he and his followers seemed to have been broken in spirit. Like Rafsanjani and Ali Khamenei before him, Khatami had run up against the limitations of his office and the nearly absolute control of the theocracy now led by Ayatollah Khamenei, the former president who had crossed over to the shadowy source of power occupied by the Khomeini-era radical clerics.

Against a backdrop of occasional widespread student protests in and and ongoing high unemployment rates, Khamenei and the Council of Guardians agreed to relax some social controls. Women began to wear makeup and jewelry, shorter veils, and more form-fitting coats and trousers. Public displays of affection between couples were no longer punished. Parties were not raided and shut down by the police, and satellite dishes—an important link to the Western world and its alternate perspectives and dissenting opinions—began to proliferate.

Even the supreme leader tried to soften his image.

News stories were carefully planted describing his enthusiasm for soccer and his love of poetry and music. It was hoped that if young Iranians could be distracted and appeased with minor new social freedoms, the dangerous energy of their political anger would dissipate and allow the regime to continue on as always, with its power undiminished.

By stacking the election against the reformists, the council was hoping to end up with a Majlis that was dominated by conservatives, thereby further consolidating their power and strengthening their already tight grip on Iranian government, culture, and society. Reformists cried foul but did not have enough leverage— and no real power—to be able to do anything about it. Even I, who used to be a leading figure in the revolution, have not the right to speak out.

Authoritarianism will never last long.

Reformists called for a boycott of the elections. Only half of all eligible voters showed up at the polls, and the result was a solid conservative majority in the Majlis.

A new challenge to their authority was about to be issued, and this time it would come from within their own ranks. This position was held by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Majlis speaker and president of the republic.

Yet, because he was still primarily remembered by the Iranian people as the man who was unable to boost employment levels and instead slashed subsidies on basic goods, resulting in sharp price increases in the s, ali khamenei he lost the election. A third man, who seemingly came out of nowhere, rode a tide of populist anger and enthusiasm to seize the office. He was less interested in discussing the social freedoms promoted by the reformists and more interested in vowing to wage war on poverty, unemployment, and corruption in politics and business.

With the reformists and their urban, educated, liberal political base boycotting the elections, Ahmadinejad managed to parlay his popularity with rural peasants and laborers and the urban poor into a shocking election victory. Once again, the Zoroastrian notion of the righteous man being elevated over leaders who prove themselves to be corrupt and serving the interests of evil seemed to be reasserting itself.

Ayatollah Khamenei and the ruling clerics got some of what they wanted in the elections. They had broken the back of the reformists and gained a conservative majority in the Majlis. They could work with this man, they believed, but his ability to harness the enormous energy of people power would require close watching.

The former mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad has used his presidency to promote conservative ideals that have alienated much of the Western world. With his continuation of the Iranian nuclear program and his declaration that the Holocaust was a myth, Ahmadinejad remains a controversial figure. He expressed doubts about the historical reality of the Holocaust ali khamenei and convened a conference of well-known Holocaust deniers to discuss the issue and arrive at conclusions.

Though not attempting to roll back the minor social freedoms allowed by Ayatollah Khamenei before the elections, Ahmadinejad did replace many government officials with members of the intelligence and security services.

As a result, politically motivated arrests of journalists, bloggers, and other opponents increased. It is this provocation that has caused a widening split between the conservativism of the Council of Guardians and Ayatollah Khamenei and that of President Ahmadinejad. Though he has repeatedly issued fatwas religious rulings condemning the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons, he has also insisted that Iran must maintain a strong army to be able to confront its enemies and all foreign aggressors.

He has also vowed that the country will not back down from its right to develop nuclear technology, though he insisted the program was designed for peaceful purposes only. Iran is a signer of the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty an agreement designed to prevent the worldwide spread of nuclear technology and weaponry , and it has never been caught violating the agreement.

Many Iranians believe that if Israel, Pakistan, and India can possess nuclear weapons, there is no reason Iran should not be able to. It is an issue of autonomy and nationalism more than a desire to be threatening.

In August , Iran announced that it had begun converting uranium into a gas that could be further purified for use in weapons and that it had reopened a uranium enrichment plant.

An ongoing series of diplomatic efforts were launched to attempt to persuade, threaten, and punish Iran into complying with international law and drop any weapons programs it was developing. It gave Iran two months to halt the program or be faced with harsher and more wideranging sanctions. The nuclear stalemate continued, with the United States claiming Iran was building nuclear weapons and Iran insisting the nuclear program is merely designed to generate electricity.

As of July , Iran continued to ignore UN demands to suspend its nuclear fuel activity. Two sets of UN sanctions were passed against Iran, with a third set being prepared. In doing so, he hopes to place Iran at the pinnacle of the Islamic world—its political and cultural leader—and at the vanguard of the East-West ideological conflict.

In his outward-looking, confrontational version of Islamic militancy, he seems to wish to achieve a new Persian Empire—a sweeping, powerful, dominating sphere of influence centered in, built upon, and controlled by Iran. The conservative Khomeini-era clerics, including Ayatollah Khamenei, seem to favor a far less confrontational brand of Islamic militancy.

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They have grown inward-looking, comfortable in their isolation from the world, and relatively free of its interference and meddling. In the wake of years of international meddling and exploitation, the Islamic revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, ongoing American hostility, and threats of proWestern secularization, the former revolutionaries have developed a siege mentality.

At this point, they seem more interested in developing a Fortress Islam than a holy war. Yet Ayatollah Khamenei continues to send mixed signals to the United States and baffle Western political observers. Diplomacy and courtesy, not provocation, are his methods.

Ayatollah Khamenei further tried to neutralize and marginalize the president by ordering the creation of a foreign policy council—the Strategic Council for Foreign Relations—that would answer only to him and would bypass Ahmadinejad altogether.

Rafsanjani trounced his opponent, an ultraconservative aligned with Ahmadinejad. The conservative clerics found an unlikely ally in the outspoken opposition leader Ayatollah Montazeri who had long criticized Khamenei and had been placed under house arrest by him.

Once again, the effort seemed to have worked.

In June , a group of 57 economists publicly blasted the president for ignoring basic economic principles. Promises of economic justice are what swept Ahmadinejad into power, and the election results and growing parliamentary opposition seemed to signal that his popularity was waning.

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He had delivered provocation and international outrage and trade penalties, but not jobs. Indeed, his stirring up of the international community may have invited the kind of foreign meddling and intrusiveness that Iran has long loathed and the economic sanctions it can ill afford. He and all of Iran stand at the brink of a momentous turning point. Continued repressive theocratic rule could continue to benefit the clerical and business elite while alienating the populace, or an increased trust in the processes of democracy could revitalize the nation and lead to a cultural flourishing unrivaled since the height of the Persian Empire.

What direction Khamenei chooses to take in leading Iran forward will largely determine whether Iran remains Fortress Islam or establishes a new Persian Empire across the Muslim world and beyond.

It will define his legacy as well, and determine whether he retains the support of the people. If enough of the Iranian people ever deem him to be serving the forces of evil rather than good, if they conclude that he is not serving the best interests of the people and the nation but is only satisfying his own hunger for power, one way or another, they will reject his rule.

For thousands of years Iranians have passed judgment on their leaders—even the most absolute and tyrannical of leaders—and occasionally have mustered the will and numbers to oust them. Chronology Ali Khamenei is born in Mashhad, Iran. He goes on to high school and the Sulayman Khan Madrassa, a theological seminary in Mashhad. He travels to Najaf, Iraq, on pilgrimage and stays there for a year to continue his studies.

It is here that he meets and studies under Ayatollah Khomeini. The shah flees Iran. He is also appointed the chairman of the Cultural Revolution Council. Ali Khamenei survives an assassination attempt that permanently damages his arm, vocal chords, and lungs. He is elected to the presidency of the Republic of Iran.

Ali Khamenei also serves as chairman of the Committee for the Revision of the Constitution. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is elected president of Iran.

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Ayatollah Khamenei creates a national security council that answers only to him and does not involve President Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani is elected to the Assembly of Experts. UN sanctions are passed Widespread student protests erupt over restrictive new press laws and the shutting down of opposition newspapers.

President Khatami condemns the riots and supports the press restrictions. President Khatami is reelected. Widespread student protests erupt again. Ayatollah Khamenei oversees a slight relaxing of strict Islamic codes of social behavior and dress codes.

Ayatollah Khamenei agrees to joint U. Available online. Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei: Clawson, Patrick, and Michael Rubin.

Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, Fathi, Nazila. January 23, , p. The Iranian Labyrinth: Nation Books, Keddie, Nikki R. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, Mackey, Sandra. The Iranians: Persia, Islam, and the Soul of a Nation. Porci con le ali.

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