Iranian Leadership: Over the Horizon

By John Nixon

John Nixon was a senior leadership analyst with the CIA from 1998 to 2011. He did several tours in Iraq and was recognized by a number of federal agencies for his contribution to the war effort. During his time with the CIA, Nixon regularly wrote for, and briefed, the most senior levels of the US government.  He also taught leadership analysis to the new generation of analysts coming into the CIA at the Sherman Kent School, the Agency's in-house analytic training center. Since leaving the Agency in 2011, Nixon has worked as an international risk consultant in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

As the Islamic Republic readies itself for another presidential election in May 2017, now is a good time to size up the state of affairs in Iranian political leadership.  Many of the leading figures in the Islamic Republic have been major players on a national level since the 1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s. Their track record on issues, their personal ties to others within the Iranian elite, and relationship to the Supreme Leader are, for many, a matter of public record.

Among the more important figures are Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hasan Rouhani, and head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani.  All three now stand at a unique time in the history of the Islamic Republic where, even more definitively than before, we are seeing the torch of leadership being passed from the Revolutionary generation to the Iran-Iraq War generation as succession issues and the future of velayat-e faqih (rule by supreme jurist) takes center stage in deciding Iran’s future.

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