Supreme Leader of Iran

Last updated
Supreme Leader of the
Islamic Republic of Iran
Emblem of Iran.svg
Official standard
Ali Khamenei (23 November 2015).jpg
Incumbent
Ali Khamenei

since 4 June 1989
Residence House of Leadership, Tehran
Seat Tehran, Iran
Appointer Assembly of Experts
Term length Life tenure [1]
Inaugural holder Ruhollah Khomeini
Formation3 December 1979
Website Office of the Supreme Leader
Coat of arms of Iran.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Iran
Government of Islamic Republic of Iran

The Supreme Leader of Iran (Persian : رهبر معظم ایران, translit.  rahbar-e mo'azzam-e irān), also called the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution [2] (رهبر معظم انقلاب اسلامی, rahbar-e mo'azzam-e enqelāb-e eslāmi), officially in Iran called the Supreme Leadership Authority (مقام معظم رهبری, maqām mo'azzam rahbari) is the head of state and highest ranking political and religious authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The armed forces, judicial system, state television, and other key governmental organizations are under the control of the Supreme Leader. The current longtime Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has been issuing decrees and making the final decisions on economy, environment, foreign policy, education, national planning, and everything else in Iran. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] Khamenei also makes the final decisions on the amount of transparency in elections in Iran, [12] and has fired and reinstated presidential cabinet appointments. [13] The Supreme Leader directly chooses the ministers of Defense, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs, as well as certain other ministries, such as the Science Ministry. [14] Iran's regional policy is directly controlled by the office of the Supreme Leader with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' task limited to protocol and ceremonial occasions. All of Iran's ambassadors to Arab countries, for example, are chosen by the Quds Corps, which directly reports to the Supreme Leader. [11]

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script, which itself evolved from the Aramaic alphabet.

Romanization of Persian or Latinization of Persian is the representation of the Persian language with the Latin script. Several different romanization schemes exist, each with its own set of rules driven by its own set of ideological goals.

A supreme leader typically refers to the person among a number of leaders of a state, organization or other such group who has been given or is able to exercise the most – or complete – authority over it. In a religion, this role is usually satisfied by a person deemed to be the representative or manifestation of a god or gods on Earth. In politics, a supreme leader usually has a cult of personality associated with them, such as below:

Contents

This post was established by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran in accordance with the concept of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist. [15] According to the Constitution, the powers of government in the Islamic Republic of Iran are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the Absolute Guardianship and the Leadership of the Ummah (Persian : ولایت مطلقه امر و امامت امت) that refers to the Supreme Leader. [16] The title "Supreme" Leader (Persian : رهبر معظم, translit.  rahbar-e mo'azzam) is often used as a sign of respect; however, this is not found in the Constitution, which simply refers to the "Leader" (رهبر, rahbar).

Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran National constitutional law

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran was adopted by referendum on 2 and 3 December 1979, and went into force replacing the Constitution of 1906. It was amended on 28 July 1989. The constitution has been called a "hybrid" of "theocratic and democratic elements". While articles One and Two vest sovereignty in God, article six "mandates popular elections for the presidency and the Majlis, or parliament." However main democratic procedures and rights are subordinate to the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader, whose powers are spelled out in Chapter Eight.

The Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, also called the Governance of the Jurist, is a post-Age-of-Occultation theory in Shia Islam which holds that Islam gives a faqīh custodianship over people. Ulama supporting the theory disagree over how encompassing custodianship should be. One interpretation – Limited Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist – holds that guardianship should be limited to non-litigious matters including religious endowments (Waqf) judicial matters and the property for which no specific person is responsible. Another – Absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist – maintains that Guardianship should include all issues for which ruler in the absence of Imams have responsibility, including governance of the country. The idea of guardianship as rule was advanced by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in a series of lectures in 1970 and now forms the basis of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The constitution of Iran calls for a faqih, or Vali-ye faqih, to serve as the Supreme Leader of the government. In the context of Iran, Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist is often referred to as "rule by the jurisprudent", or "rule of the Islamic jurist".

The Supreme Leader is more powerful than the President of Iran and appoints the heads of many powerful posts in the military, the civil government, and the judiciary. [17] Originally Iran's constitution stated that the Supreme Leader must be a Marja'-e taqlid, the highest ranking cleric and authority on religious laws in Usuli Twelver Shia Islam. However, in 1989, the constitution was amended to require simply Islamic "scholarship" of the leader, i.e., the leader could be a lower ranking cleric. [18] [19]

President of Iran position

The President of Iran is the head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The President is the highest popularly elected official in Iran. The President carries out the decrees, and answers to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who functions as the country's head of state. Unlike the executive in other countries, the President of Iran does not have full control over anything, as these are ultimately under the control of the Supreme Leader. Chapter IX of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran sets forth the qualifications for presidential candidates. The procedures for presidential election and all other elections in Iran are outlined by the Supreme Leader. The President functions as the executive of the decrees and wishes of the Supreme Leader. These include signing treaties and other agreements with foreign countries and international organizations, with Supreme Leader's approval; administering national planning, budget, and state employment affairs, as decreed by the Supreme Leader. The President also appoints the ministers, subject to the approval of Parliament, and the Supreme Leader who can dismiss or reinstate any of the ministers at any time, regardless of the president or parliament's decision. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei directly chooses the ministries of Defense, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs, as well as certain other ministries, such as the Science Ministry. Iran’s regional policy is directly controlled by the office of the Supreme Leader with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ task limited to protocol and ceremonial occasions. All of Iran’s ambassadors to Arab countries, for example, are chosen by the Quds Corps, which directly reports to the Supreme Leader.

Marja highest clerical rank in Usuli Twelver Shia Islam

In Shia Islam, marjaʿ, also known as a marjaʿ taqlīd or marjaʿ dīnī, literally meaning "source to imitate/follow" or "religious reference", is a title given to the highest level Shia authority, a Grand Ayatollah with the authority to make legal decisions within the confines of Islamic law for followers and less-credentialed clerics. After the Qur'an and the prophets and imams, marājiʿ are the highest authority on religious laws in Usuli Shia Islam.

Usuli majority group within Twelver Shia Islam

Usulis are the majority Twelver Shi'a Muslim group. They differ from their now much smaller rival Akhbari group in favoring the use of ijtihad in the creation of new rules of fiqh; in assessing hadith to exclude traditions they believe unreliable; and in considering it obligatory to obey a mujtahid when seeking to determine Islamically correct behavior.

In its history, the Islamic Republic has had two Supreme Leaders: Ruhollah Khomeini, who held the position from 1979 until his death in 1989, and Ali Khamenei, who has held the position since Khomeini's death.

Ruhollah Khomeini 20th-century Iranian religious leader and politician

Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini, known in the Western world as Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian politician and marja. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the end of 2,500 years of Persian monarchy. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country's Supreme Leader, a position created in the constitution of the Islamic Republic as the highest-ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei on 4 June 1989.

In theory, the Supreme Leader is appointed and supervised by the Assembly of Experts. However, all candidates to the Assembly of Experts, the President and the Majlis (parliament), are selected by the Guardian Council, whose members are selected by the Supreme Leader of Iran. [20] Also, all directly-elected members after the vetting process by the Guardian Council still have to be approved by the Supreme Leader. [21] [22] As such, the Assembly has never questioned the Supreme Leader. [23] There have been instances when the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly criticized members of the Assembly of Experts, resulting in their arrest and dismissal. For example, Khamenei publicly called Ahmad Azari Qomi a traitor, resulting in his arrest and eventual dismissal from the Assembly of Experts. There have also been instances where the Guardian Council reversed its ban of particular people after being ordered to do so by Khamenei. [24] The Supreme Leader is legally considered "inviolable", with Iranians regularly punished for insulting him. [25] [26] [27]

Assembly of Experts

The Assembly of Experts —also translated as the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership or as the Council of Experts— is the deliberative body empowered to designate and dismiss the Supreme Leader of Iran. However all directly-elected members after the vetting process by the Guardian Council still have to be approved by the Supreme Leader of Iran before gaining membership to the Assembly of Experts.

Guardian Council appointed and constitutionally-mandated 12-member council that wields considerable power and influence in Iran

The Guardian Council of the Constitution is an appointed and constitutionally mandated 12-member council that wields considerable power and influence in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Grand Ayatollah Ahmad Azari-Qomi-Bigdeli (1925–1999) was an Iranian cleric.

Mandate and status

The Supreme Leader of Iran is elected by the Assembly of Experts (Persian : مجلس خبرگان, Majles-e Khobregan), which is also the only government body in charge of overseeing, choosing and dismissing Supreme Leaders of Iran. [28]

The Supreme Leader is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the provisional[ citation needed ] head of the three branches of the state (the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Executive).

He oversees, appoints (or inaugurates) and can dismiss the following offices:

The Leader also can declare war and peace. [22]

Incorporation in the Constitution

1979

In March 1979, shortly after Ruhollah Khomeini’s return from exile and the overthrow of Iran's monarchy, a national referendum was held throughout Iran with the question "Islamic Republic, yes or no?". [34] Although some groups objected to the wording and choice and boycotted the referendum, 98% of those voting voted "yes". [34] Following this landslide victory, the constitution of Iran of 1906 was declared invalid and a new constitution for an Islamic state was created and ratified by referendum during the first week of December in 1979. According to Francis Fukuyama, the 1979 constitution is a "hybrid" of "theocratic and democratic elements" with much of it based on the ideas Khomeini presented in his work Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist (Hukumat-e Islami). [35] In the work, Khomeini argued that government must be run in accordance with traditional Islamic sharia , and for this to happen a leading Islamic jurist ( faqih ) must provide political "guardianship" (wilayat or velayat) over the people. The leading jurist were known as Marja'.

The Constitution stresses the importance of the clergy in government, with Article 4 stating that

“all civil, criminal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and all other statutes and regulations (must) be keeping with Islamic measures;…the Islamic legal scholars of the watch council (shura yi nigahban) will keep watch over this.” [36]

and the importance of the Supreme Leader. Article 5 states

“during the absence of the removed Twelfth Imam (may God hasten his reappearance) government and leadership of the community in the Islamic Republic of Iran belong to the rightful God fearing… legal scholar (Faqih) who is recognized and acknowledged as the Islamic leader by the majority of the population.”

Article 107 in the constitution mentions Imam Khomeini by name and praises him as the most learned and talented leader for emulation (marja-i taqlid). The responsibilities of the Supreme Leader are vaguely stated in the constitution, thus any ‘violation’ by the Supreme Leader would be dismissed almost immediately. As the rest of the clergy governed affairs on a daily basis, the Supreme Leader is capable of mandating a new decision as per the concept of Vilayat-e Faqih. (Halm, 120-121)

1989

Shortly before Imam Khomeini's death a change was made in the constitution allowing a lower ranking Shia cleric to become Supreme Leader. Khomeini had a falling out with his successor Hussein-Ali Montazeri who disapproved of human rights abuses by the Islamic Republic [37] such as the mass execution of political prisoners in late summer and early autumn 1988. Montazeri was demoted as a marja and Khomeini chose a new successor, a relatively low-ranking member of the clergy, Ali Khamene'i. However Article 109 stipulated that the leader be `a source of imitation` (Marja-e taqlid). Khomeini wrote a letter to the president of the Assembly for Revising the Constitution, which was in session at the time, making the necessary arrangements to designate Khamene'i as his successor, and Article 109 was revised accordingly. [38] "Khomeini is supposed to have written a letter to the Chairman of the assembly of Leadership Experts on 29.4.89 in which he emphasised that he had always been of the opinion that the marja'iyat was not a requirement for the office of leader. [38]

Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (Velayat-e faghih)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Hajj authorities, 2018 Ali Khamenei met with Hajj authorities 2018 09.jpg
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Hajj authorities, 2018

The constitution of Iran combines concepts of both democracy and theocracy, theocracy in the form of Khomeini's concept of vilayat-e faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), as expressed in the Islamic Republic. According to Ayatollah Khomeini, the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist was not restricted to orphans or mental incompetents, but applied to everyone in absence of the twelfth Imam. Jurists were the only rightful political/governmental leaders because "God had commanded Islamic government" and "no one knew religion better than the ulama" (Islamic clergy). [39] They alone would preserve "Islamic order" and keep everyone from deviating from "the just path of Islam". [40] Prior to the revolution observant Shia Muslims selected their own leading faqih to emulate (known as a Marja'-i taqlid) according to their own decision making. The “congregation rather than the hierarchy decided how prominent the ayatollah was” thus allowing the public to possibly limit the influence of the Faqih. [39]

After the revolution Shia Muslims (or at least Iranian Shia) were commanded to show allegiance to the current vali-e faghih, Guardian Jurist or Supreme Leader. In this new system, the jurist oversaw all governmental affairs. The complete control exercised by the Faqih was not to be limited to the Iranian Revolution because the revolution and its Leader had international aspirations. As the constitution of the Islamic Republic states, it

intends to establish an ideal and model society on the basis of Islamic norms. ... the Constitution provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the Revolution at home and abroad. In particular, in the development of international relations, the Constitution will strive with other Islamic and popular movements to prepare the way for the formation of a single world community (in accordance with the Koranic verse `This your community is a single community, and I am your Lord, so worship Me` [21:92]), and to assure the continuation of the struggle for the liberation of all deprived and oppressed peoples in the world. [36]

According to author Seyyed Vali Nasr, Khomeini appealed to the masses, during the pre-1979 period, by referring to them as the oppressed and with charisma and political ability was tremendously successful. He became a very popular role model for Shiites and hoped for the Iranian Revolution to be the first step to a much larger Islamic revolution, transcending Shia Islam, in the same way that Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky wanted their revolution to be a world revolution, not just a Russian one. [41]

Functions, powers and duties of the Supreme Leader

Ali Khamenei voting in the 2017 Presidential election Ali Khamenei voting in the 2017 Presidential election20.jpg
Ali Khamenei voting in the 2017 Presidential election
Ali Khamenei with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, 2017 Swedish PM Stefan Lofven meeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei 04.jpg
Ali Khamenei with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, 2017

Duties and Powers given to the Supreme Leader by the Constitution, decrees and other laws are:

  1. Delineation of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in consultation with the Nation's Expediency Discernment Council.
  2. Supervision over the proper execution of the general policies of the systems.
  3. Resolving conflicts between the three branches of the government [42]
  4. Issuing decrees for national referendums.
  5. Assuming supreme command of the armed forces.
  6. Declaration of war and peace, and the mobilization of the armed forces.
  7. Ability to veto laws passed by the parliament. [31] [43]
  8. Appointment, dismissal, and acceptance of resignation of:
    1. the members of Expediency Discernment Council.
    2. the members of Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution.
    3. two personal representatives to the Supreme National Security Council. [31]
    4. Can delegate representatives to all branches of government. Ali Khamenei has currently around 2000 representatives. [44]
    5. the six fuqaha' of the Guardian Council.
    6. the supreme judicial authority of the country.
    7. ministers of defense, intelligence, foreign affairs, and science.
    8. the head of the radio and television network of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    9. the chief of the joint staff.
    10. the chief commander of the armed forces of the country
    11. the highest commanders of the armed forces.
  9. Can dismiss and reinstate ministers. [45] [13] [46]
  10. Resolving differences between the three wings of the armed forces and regulation of their relations.
  11. Resolving the problems, which cannot be solved by conventional methods, through the Nation's Expediency Discernment Council.
  12. Signing the decree formalizing the elections in Iran for the President of the Republic by the people.
  13. Dismissal of the President of the Republic, with due regard for the interests of the country, after the Supreme Court holds him guilty of the violation of his constitutional duties, or after an impeachment vote of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament) testifying to his incompetence on the basis of Article 89 of the Constitution.
  14. Pardoning or reducing the sentences of convicts, within the framework of Islamic criteria, on a recommendation (to that effect) from the head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader may delegate part of his duties and powers to another person.
  15. Confirms decisions of the Supreme National Security Council. [47]
  16. Control over Special Clerical Court. [48]
  17. Can declare war and peace. [22]

List of Supreme Leaders

Ali KhameneiRuhollah KhomeiniSupreme Leader of Iran
No.Supreme RulePortraitName
English · Persian · Signature
LifespanPlace of birthNotes
13 December 1979
– 3 June 1989
(9 years, 182 days)
Ruhollah Khomeinii.jpg Grand Ayatollah
Sayyid
Ruhollah Khomeini
سیدروح‌الله خمینی
Ruhollah Khomeini signature.png
22 September 19023 June 1989(1989-06-03) (aged 86) Khomeyn, Markazi Province Leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
24 June 1989
– present
(29 years, 261 days)
Ali Khamenei (23 November 2015).jpg Grand Ayatollah
Sayyid
Ali Khamenei
سیدعلی خامنه‌ای
Khamenei signature.png
19 April 1939 (age 79) [49] Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan Province Previously served as President of Iran from 1981 to 1989 until Khomeini's death.

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  42. https://books.google.pl/books?id=2vgADAAAQBAJ&pg=PA139&lpg=PA139&dq=supreme+leader+of+iran+constitution+three+branches&source=bl&ots=UbU5eRUgZg&sig=wdpSt0Hks7GWjRbNpDYbbsxJBzo&hl=pl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjmn6jF-MvYAhUxhqYKHff6CBkQ6AEIlgEwDA#v=onepage&q=supreme%20leader%20of%20iran%20constitution%20three%20branches&f=false
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  44. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tehran/inside/govt.html
  45. "Iranian lawmakers warn Ahmadinejad to accept intelligence chief as political feud deepens". CP. Archived from the original on 2017-08-08. Retrieved 2017-05-21.
  46. Amir Saeed Vakil,Pouryya Askary (2004). constitution in now law like order. p. 362.
  47. § 5 of Article 176
  48. "Inside Iran - The Structure Of Power In Iran - Terror And Tehran - FRONTLINE - PBS". www.pbs.org.
  49. "Detailed biography of Ayatollah Khamenei, Leader of Islamic Revolution". 23 September 2013.
Head of state of Iran
Preceded by
Shah
Supreme Leader
1979–present
Incumbent