Who’s Who in Iranian Politics

Ali Akbar Velayati

23 January 2013 | 21:04 Code : 1911953 Who’s Who in Iranian Politics General category
Pragmatist or Principalist?
Ali Akbar Velayati


Ali Akbar Velayati was born on June 24, 1945, in Rostamabad, one of the 33 villages of Shemiran. He was Iran's Foreign Minister from 1981 to 1996.

After finishing elementary and middle school in Rostamabad, he attended Jam high school in the Gholhak district of Tehran and finished high school in 1342, with an emphasis in biology studies. In 1343, he participated in the university entrance exam and was accepted to the medical school of Tehran University. After achieving a general medical degree, he became a resident in pediatrics in Children's Medical Center of the University of Tehran, and then specialized in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University in the US. While studying, Velayati taught at Ghaemiyeh School and then at the Jahan Ara High School of Gholhak. 

Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1978, he held the following positions: Deputy Health Minister, Tehran's representative in the first term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and served 16 years as Foreign Minister during the presidencies of Ayatollah Khamenei and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani. Subsequently, he became international affairs advisor to the Supreme Leader, a role he occupies until today.

Ali Akbar Velayati is symbolically in the professor list of several universities. He is one of the members of the Expediency Council and the Foundation of Islamic Encyclopedia. He is the head of Dr. Maseeh Daneshvari Hospital and the Organ Transplant Support Society. He is also a member of the High Council of Cultural Revolution.

Prior to the Islamic revolution, Velayati was interrogated several times and had a file in the Tehran SAVAK bureau because of his encouraging students to participate in protests against the Shah.
In 1961, he had become a member of the National Front. With regard to discontinuation of his activities in the Front, he says: “I was looking for a place to follow my political activities. At that time, the National Front and the Freedom Movement were the only existing political entities. Following the demise of Ayatollah Boroujerdi, I followed Imam Khomeini. On June 6th, 1963, I separated from the National Front and started having relations with religious scholars and activists."

While studying in university, Velayati became active in the Islamic Association of Physicians— which had become inactive after Sheibani— and along with other students like Lavasani, Labbafi Nejad, Motamedi, Jazaeri and Khademi, revitalized the association. He was also in regular contact with different political groups, especially the religious scholars who were followers of Ayatollah Khomeini.

While today Velayati holds numerous positions, some are purely ceremonial. His most important executive responsibilities were serving as Foreign Minister for 16 years, and then as advisor to the Supreme Leader. In 2005, he became one of the presidential candidates, but later withdrew in support of Ayatollah Hashemi’s candidacy. 

With regard to his position as the Foreign Minister during the Iran-Iraq war and in negotiations with that country, he says: " The most difficult and complicated negotiations during the 16 years as Foreign Minister were the peace negotiations between Iran and Iraq, which continued between 1988 and 1990. The Iraqis did not fulfill their commitments and intended to gain in negotiations what they could not achieve in war. What were the Iraqis after in the war? Governance over the Shatt al-Arab, and they intended to gain this concession." 

Velayati was among the Iranian officials whose name was introduced in the infamous Mikonos Trial. But Iranian officials have repeatedly denied their involvement in that terrorist event.

While experts in Iran's political issues consider him a Principalist politician, they know that different personalities from different political parties and movements in the Islamic Republic approve of him and consider him a moderate and non-partisan personality. He himself has stated in an interview, “the president must be non-partisan and not limited to a special political party." In that interview—which was conducted before the 2005 election when he was one of the possible candidates—he said: “I will not form a cabinet the members of which are from one political party or group. Those who are committed to the Islamic, revolutionary and national values and have proved their competency can hope that they will have a role in the future administration of the country (in case of his presidency)."

As we get closer to the 2013 presidential election and the political atmosphere in Iran becomes hotter, the name of Ali Akbar Velayati is heard more than before in political circles and in the media. Iran's political analysts consider him the major candidate for a future coalition government to end the internal and external problems of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This group of political analysts believe that considering the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran is presently under pressure due to the sanctions by foreign countries, and is also faced with numerous domestic economic, political and cultural problems, the only way to end these difficulties is by the formation of a coalition government of different groups, parties and personalities in the future. Therefore, based on their analysis, the best option— who is approved by all political parties— is Ali Akbar Velayati.

Velayati has asked his friends to organize his campaign headquarters, and the launch of his personal web site has intensified speculations about his campaign activities.

Velayati has activated exactly the same site that was live during the 2005 election, with a format which seems more campaign-like. Naturally, he cannot call the activities of this site unrelated to the election issues, for he has had no personal site except during the 2005 presidential election which was shut down after his withdrawal from his candidacy. Thus, this site can make official his electoral campaign. Laura Rosen, the well-known former Washington Post reporter (and now with Al Monitor) who has close relations with the Foreign Ministry, in quoting Abbas Maleki, the Iranian diplomat and former Deputy Foreign Minister, states that Velayati will probably be a candidate for Iran's presidency and this pragmatist personality will reach a compromise with the US by next June; for the government does not want to see the Iranian people be under pressure due to the economic sanctions.

Recently, there have been reports of a coalition between Velayati, Gholam-ali Haddad Adel and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf for the presidential election, so that only one of these three people will be introduced as the candidate of the Principalists, but this report has—several times—been denied by Haddad Adel.

tags: velayatiforeign ministeriranelection

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