Supreme Leader of Iran

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Supreme Leader of the
Islamic Republic of Iran
Emblem of Iran.svg
Ali Khamenei,.jpg
Incumbent
Ali Khamenei

since 4 June 1989
Residence Niavaran Palace, Tehran
Appointer Assembly of Experts
Term length 8 years (not prohibited), unlimited
Inaugural holder Ruhollah Khomeini
Formation 3 December 1979
Website personal Website
Emblem of Iran.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Iran

The Supreme Leader of Iran (Persian: ولی فقیه ایران‎, vali-e faghih-e iran,[1] lit. Guardian Jurist of Iran, or رهبر انقلاب, rahbar-e enghelab,[2] lit. Leader of the Revolution) is the head of state and highest ranking political and religious authority in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The post was established by the constitution in accordance with the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists.[3] The title "Supreme" Leader (Persian: ولی فقیه, vali-e faghih) is often used as a sign of respect; however, this terminology is not found in the constitution of Iran, which simply referred to the "Leader" (rahbar).

The 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.[4] Originally Iran's constitution stated that the 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.[5][6]

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 Sayyed Ali Khamenei, who has held the position since Khomeini's death.

The Supreme Leader is elected by the Assembly of Experts.

Mandate and Status[edit]

The Supreme Leader is elected by the Assembly of Experts (Persian: مجلس خبرگان‎, Majles-e Khobregan), which is also in charge of overseeing the Leader and confirming him in his position for a term of 8 years without prohibition to the number of terms. The Leader is the Commander in Head of the armed forces and the provisional Chief of the three branches of Government (the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Executive).

He appoints (or inaugurates) and oversees the following office

Also the declaration of war and peace is to be made by the Supreme Leader together with a two third majority of the Parliament Majles.[7]

Incorporation in the Constitution[edit]

1979[edit]

In March 1979, shortly after 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?".[8] Although some groups objected to the wording and choice and boycotted the referendum, 98% of those voting voted "yes".[8] 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. The new constitution has been called a "hybrid" of "theocratic and democratic elements"[9] with much of it based on the ideas Khomeini presented in his work Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist (Hukumat-e Islami). In it 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.”[10]

and the importance of the 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 Ayatollah 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[edit]

Shortly before Khomeini's death a change was made in the constitution allowing a lower ranking Shia cleric to become Leader. Khomeini had had a falling out with his successor Hussein-Ali Montazeri who disapproved of human rights abuses by the Islamic Republic[11] 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.[12] "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.[12]

Supreme Jurisconsult (Velayat-e faghih ولایت فقیه)[edit]

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 jurist), as expressed in Islamic Republic. According to Khomeini, guardianship by Islamic jurists 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).[13] They alone would preserve "Islamic order" and keep everyone from deviating from "the just path of Islam".[14] 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.[13]

After the revolution Shia Muslims (or at least Iranian Shia) were commanded to show allegiance to the current vali-e faghih, guardian jurist or 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.[15]

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.[16]

Functions and duties of the Supreme Leader[edit]

According to Article 110 of the Constitution,[10] the Duties and Powers of the Leader are

  1. Delineation of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran after consultation with the Nation's Expediency Discernment Council.
  2. Supervision over the proper execution of the general policies of the systems.
  3. Issuing decrees for national referendums.
  4. Assuming supreme command of the armed forces.
  5. Declaration of war and peace, and the mobilization of the armed forces.
  6. Appointment, dismissal, and acceptance of resignation of:
    1. the fuqaha' on the Guardian Council.
    2. the supreme judicial authority of the country.
    3. the head of the radio and television network of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    4. the chief of the joint staff.
    5. the chief commander of the armed forces of the country
    6. the supreme commanders of the armed forces.
  7. Resolving differences between the three wings of the armed forces and regulation of their relations.
  8. Resolving the problems, which cannot be solved by conventional methods, through the Nation's Expediency Discernment Council.
  9. Signing the decree formalizing the elections in Iran for the President of the Republic by the people.
  10. 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.
  11. 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 Leader may delegate part of his duties and powers to another person.

List of Supreme Leaders[edit]

Ali Khamenei Ruhollah Khomeini

Numerical order Supreme Rule Portrait Name
English · Persian · Signature
Lifespan Place of birth Political Party Notes
1 3 December 1979
– 3 June 1989
(9 years, 182 days)
Khomeini portrait.jpg Grand Ayatollah Sayyid
Ruhollah Khomeini
سید روح‌الله خمینی
Ruhollah Khomeini signature.png
(1902-09-22)22 September 1902 – 3 June 1989(1989-06-03) (aged 86) Khomeyn, Markazi Province None Leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
2 4 June 1989
– present
(24 years, 319 days)
Ali Khamenei,.jpg Grand Ayatollah Sayyid
Ali Khamenei
سید علی حسینی خامنه‌ای
Khamenei signature.png
(1939-07-17) 17 July 1939 (age 74) Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan Province Combatant Clergy Association Previously served as President of Iran from 1981 to 1989 until Khomeini's death.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Article 108, Iranian Constitution
  2. ^ Article 89-91, Iranian Constitution
  3. ^ Article 5, Iranian Constitution
  4. ^ "Who's in Charge?" by Ervand Abrahamian London Review of Books, 6 November 2008
  5. ^ Moin, Baqer, Khomeini, (2001), p.293
  6. ^ "Article 109 [Leadership Qualifications]
    (1) Following are the essential qualifications and conditions for the Leader:
    a. Scholarship, as required for performing the functions of religious leader in different fields.
  7. ^ Article 110, Iranian Constitution
  8. ^ a b Duality by Design: The Iranian Electoral System By Yasmin Alem
  9. ^ While articles One and Two vest sovereignty in God, article six "mandates popular elections for the presidency and the Majlis, or parliament." source: JULY 27, 2009, Iran, Islam and the Rule of Law. FRANCIS FUKUYAMA
  10. ^ a b Iran - Constitution
  11. ^ Keddie, Nikki R.; Yann Richard (2003). Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 260.
  12. ^ a b Schirazi, Asghar, The Constitution of Iran : politics and the state in the Islamic Republic / by Asghar Schirazi, London ; New York : I.B. Tauris, 1997 p.73-75
  13. ^ a b Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future, W. W. Norton & Company, Apr 17, 2007, p.?
  14. ^ Khomeini, Islam and Revolution, Writings and Declarations Of Imam Khomeini p.54
  15. ^ Constitution of Iran, Preamble, The Form of Government in Islam
  16. ^ Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future, W. W. Norton & Company, Apr 17, 2007, p.137

Sources and references[edit]