Repression is his middle name. Meet Ali Larijani, a former commander of the fire-eating Revolutionary Guards and veteran basher of the West, propagandist extraordinaire, master of subversion and fervent advocate of radical confrontation with the Islamic republic’s adversaries.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources reveal that this week, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his close advisers tapped Larijani as Iran’s next president.
Our Iran experts predict that if elected, he will sharply scale up Iran’s subversive activities, particularly in the Persian Gulf and the Arab world. His tendency will be to add fire to Tehran’s controversy with Washington over its nuclear program. To this end, Larijani will try and sweet-talk the Europeans into a parting of the ways with Americans on policies toward his country.
His pedigree is impressive.
Although a secular hardliner himself, he is the son of Grand Ayatollah Hashem Amoli, an esteemed teacher in the clerical academies of the Shiite holy cities of Najaf, Iraq, and Qom, Iran. Larijani is married to the daughter of another grand ayatollah Motahari, one of the most radical figures of the 1979 Islamic revolution, who was assassinated in the first year of its eruption.
Family ties aside, Larijani, 47, is the kind of bully the hard men of Tehran have need of to raise the stakes in fighting the West’s campaign to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons. The candidate gained notoriety for mounting campaigns of repression and assassination against dissidents. As head of the Iranian broadcasting corporation from 1994 to 2004, he clamped a heavy censorship lid down on domestic reformist politicians, including state radio and TV coverage of the outgoing president Ali Khatami’s campaign as a reformist.
As soon as his candidacy is publicly announced, other contenders will most likely step aside. Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, chairman of the powerful expediency council, for instance, was told bluntly by Khamenei to get out of the race.
The fundamentalist camp is divided and has not yet announced its presidential candidate.
But Maryam Behrouzi, the leader of the Zeynab women’s faction confirmed that Larijani has the support of 10 women’s organizations.
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Larijani brings some academic credentials to the job, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iran experts.
A mathematics and computer student at Sharif University in Tehran, he switched majors on the advice of his father-in-law – a close friend of the Islamic republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – and took a doctorate in Western philosophy. He now serves on the board of trustees of a number of Iranian universities and research centers and lectures at Tehran University. At 22, his powerful father-in-law got him a job at the Iranian broadcasting authority. He was swiftly promoted to director of overseas broadcasting and the official IRNA news agency.
This was the time of the Iran-Iraq war. Khomeini was also contending with bloody clashes between his disciples and secular groups who demanded a share in government. Larijani gave the ruler the support of a propaganda war against his enemies.
From 1982 to 1991, Larijani was deputy labor minister, deputy communications minister and deputy minister for the Revolutionary Guards, filling in as their commander. In 1991, he was appointed minister of culture and Islamic instruction and three years later director of the state broadcasting authority.
In his 10 years at that post, Larijani expanded the authority’s overseas propaganda broadcasts. Before he took over, Iran had only two television networks, one of which broadcast for only seven hours a day, and two television stations. When he left the job a year ago, Iran had seven television channels, eight national radio networks, 30 regional radio networks and 24 region television networks. He also set up three television stations for overseas broadcasts to Iranians exiles
At the same time, Larijani poured Iranian electronic propaganda into the Muslim world and beyond. He established two television channels, called Sahar, which broadcast Shiite religious programs and pro-Iranian propaganda in 10 languages.
He also founded the Arabic language al-Aalam TV channel that seeks to compete with the popular al-Jazeera, and sends funds to the Lebanese Hizballah al-Menar TV station.