(Photo by Scr47chy, available at Flickr)

August 25, 2009

Government Re-Shuffling in Iran

Iran’s leaders are currently engaged in forming a post-election government. There are few new faces among those recently appointed, a sign that most government officials have simply been moved into different positions. Nearly all of the nominees have strong ties to the supreme leader or to the president. In the cabinet, Ahmadinejad has appointed a cadre of loyalists, many of whom served previously as high-ranking members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) (See Ali Alfoneh’s Ahmadinejad’s War Cabinet). The table below highlights key dynamics in the unfolding political re-structuring in Iran.

Italicized font indicates that these positions have not yet been confirmed.
(A) indicates that the appointment was made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
(K) indicates that the appointment was made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
(L) indicates that the appointment was made by Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani


Post-Inauguration Position

Pre-Inauguration Position


Relationship with Iran’s Political Elite

Relationship with the West

Mostafa Mohammad Najjar (A)

Minster of the Interior

Minister of Defense

Background in defense and military – former defense minister and high-ranking member of IRGC

Previously senior commander in the IRGC; reportedly close to Ahmadinejad[1]

Linked to 1983 Beirut bombing[2]

Manouchehr Mottaki (A)

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Previously served four year term under Ahmadinejad

Campaign manager for Ali Larijani during 2005 presidential election[3]

Western analysts perceive him to be “levelheaded, although not influential in shaping Iran’s foreign policy”[4]

Ahmad Vahidi (A)

Minister of Defense

Deputy Defense Minister and former commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC

Formerly Deputy Defense Minister and high-ranking IRGC commander

Former commander in the IRGC

Listed by European Union as someone heavily involved with Iran’s nuclear activities; subject to international arrest order over bombing in Argentina in 1994; former leader of Quds Force, linked to insurgency in Iraq[5]

Heydar Moslehi (A)

Minister of Intelligence

Supreme Leader's representative to IRGC and National Charity Organization director

No experience in intelligence

Strong ties to the IRGC – previously Khamenei’s representative to the Basij; deputy to Ahmadinejad for Islamic University Affairs – an Ahmadinejad loyalist[6]


Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei (L)

Prosecutor General

Minister of Intelligence

Two terms as representative of Judiciary Chief to Ministry of Intelligence; Prosecutor General of Special Clerical Court since 1996; head of Judicial Complex for Government Employees

Fired from intelligence post by Ahmadinejad after bitter post-election dispute; considered a hardline conservative with links to Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, spiritual advisor to Ahmadinejad[7]

Has repeatedly accused the U.S. and Israel of spying inside Iran and blamed internal unrest on foreign interference; accused Israel of plotting to assassinate Ahmadinejad during Iranian elections[8]

Morteza Bakhtiari (A)

Minister of Justice

Isfafan governor-general

Former director of State Prisons Organization



Masoud Mirkazemi (A)

Oil Minister

Minister of Commerce

Reportedly has little experience in oil sector

Reportedly close to Ahmadinejad; ties to the Revolutionary Guard[9]

Iran’s oil industry could face tougher sanctions from West

Mehdi Ghazanfari (A)

Minister of Commerce

Deputy Commerce Minister

Deputy Commerce Minister during Ahmadinejad’s first term



Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini (A)

Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance

Former teacher at Islamic Azad University, Payame Nour University and Allameh Tabataba'i University

PhD in economics



Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini (A)

Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance

Former Deputy Science Minister

PhD in religious jurisprudence



Sousan Keshavarz (A)

Minister of Education

Head of Education Ministry’s department for disabled students

Head of Education Ministry’s department for disabled students



Mohammad Abassi (A)

Minister of Cooperatives

Minister of Cooperatives

Minister of Cooperatives since November 2006; PhD in management



Fatemeh Ajorlou (A)

Minister of Welfare and Social Security

Member of Parliament during the seventh and eighth Majlis

Allegedly sentenced last year to two years in jail for “disclosing classified documents” concerning the trial of another Ahmadinejad supporter tried for accusing Rafsanjani of corruption.[10]

Described as “ultra-conservative.”[11]


Ali Akbar Mehrabian (A)

Minister of Industries and Mines

Minister of Industries and Mines

Previously Industries Minister,
 re-appointed despite recent conviction for fraud[12]

Close ally of Ahmadinejad; former presidential advisor


Sadeq Khalilian (A)

Minister of Agricultural Jihad

Deputy Minister of Agricultural Jihad

Former deputy agriculture minister; PhD in natural resources



Reza Taqipour (A)

Minister of Communications and Information Technology

Deputy Minister of Communications, Head of Iranian Aerospace Organization

Formerly Deputy Communications Minister and director of Iran’s telecommunications industry



Mohammad Aliabadi (A)

Minister of Energy

President of Iran’s National Olympic Committee

Reportedly little or no experience in the field of energy[13]

Ahmadinejad loyalist; related to the president by marriage[14]


Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi (A)

Minister of Health

Member of Parliament during the fourth and fifth Majlis

Graduate in obstetrics and gynaecology; associate professor and member of Medical Ethics Board Committee at Tehran University of Medical Sciences

Sister of Brigadier General Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi of the Revolutionary Guards (current nominee for Defense Minister); widely described as conservative or hard-line. [15]


Abdolreza Sheikholeslami (A)

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs

Chief of Staff for Presidential Office

PhD in civil engineering; former governor of Hormozgan Province[16]

Close ally of Ahmadinejad; while chief of staff, appointed to a simultaneous position as advisor for youth affairs due to his “commitment, sense of responsibility, and dedication.”[17]


Announced to Iranian media that Mashei would be forced to step down in the wake of his controversial remarks about friendship with Israel.[18]

Ali Nikzad (A)

Minister of Housing and Urban Development

Governor general of Ardabil Province

Head of Housing and Urban Development Organization of Ardabil Province


Has highlighted the “firm resolve” of the Iranian government to improve relationships with “independent nations,” including China. [19]

Kamran Daneshju (A)

Minister of Science, Research, and Technology

Head of Iran’s Election Commission for 2009 elections

Former Tehran Governor General.[20] Given ties to Ahmadinejad, he could suppress future student  protests[21]

Closely allied with Ahmadinejad. Allegedly central to the suspected rigging of his patron’s reelection[22]


Hamid Behbahani (A)

Minister of Road and Transportation

Minister of Roads and Transportation

Minister of Road and Transportation during Ahmadinejad’s first term; Ph.D. in civil engineering



Mohammad Sadeq Larijani (K)

Chief Judiciary 

Member of the Guardian Council; Assembly of Experts

Served for 8 years on the Council of Guardians

Taught Islamic ideology at various IRGC bases; close to the Supreme Leader. Brother of Ali Larijani.

Vehemently opposes “Western cultural threat” to Iranian regime

Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi (K)

Member of the Guardian Council; Assembly of Experts

Chief Judiciary

Served as Chief Judiciary since 1999.

Studied under Ayatollah Khomeini; close to Khamanei and religious hardliners in government; relations with Ahmadinejad appear to have strained in recent years; Has been described as a possible successor to Khamenei[23]

Participates in standard anti-Western rhetoric, but willing to compromise on some issues; praised the US-Iraqi withdrawal agreement and security pact.[24]

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (A)

Briefly appointed First Vice President; Reappointed Chief of Staff

Chief of Staff. Briefly served as Deputy Interior Minister.

Previously Chief of Staff. Suspended for two months on charges of financial impropriety[25]

Close ally of Ahmadinejad – his daughter is married to the son of the president; Khamenei labeled his past comments on Israel as “Illogical;” forced to resign as first vice president due to pressure from conservatives[26]

Has previously stated that Iran is a “friend of the Israeli people” and to the United States.[27]


 Joanna Palmer and James Coady contributed significant research to this report.

[1] “More Ahmadinejad cabinet nominees revealed,” Press TV, August 19 2009. http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=103932&sectionid=351020101.
[2] “Iran’s new defence minister tied to bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines,” Iran Focus, August 14 2005. Available: http://www.iranfocus.com/en/terrorism/iran-s-new-defence-minister-tied-to-bombing-that-killed-241-u.s.-marines-03321.html.
[3] “Iranian Foreign Minister to Retain Post,” Global Security Newswire, August 20, 2009. Available: http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20090820_5975.php.
[4] Jon Leyne, “Iranian President Rewards Loyalty,” BBC News, August 20, 2009. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8212574.stm. And Borzou Daragahi, “Ahmadinejad to Retain Iranian Foreign Minister, A Move Likely to Reassure Western Diplomats,” The Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2009.
[5] Iranian Entity: IRGC Brigadier-General Ahmad Vahidi,” Iran Watch, August 27 2008.
[6] Available: http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8805251018. And Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “Ahmadi-Nejad Nominates Allies to Cabinet,” Financial Times, August 19, 2009. Available: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6840b96c-8cb0-11de-a540-00144feabdc0.html. And Jon Leyne, “Iranian President Rewards Loyalty.” And Muhhamad Sahimi, “Ahmadinejad’s Security Cabinet,” Tehran Bureau, August 17 2009. Available:  http://tehranbureau.com/ahmadinejads-security-cabinet/.
[7] “Iran Intelligence Minister Sacked,” Al Jazeera, July 27 2009. Available: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/07/200972742642870214.html.
[8] Joshua Keating, “Iran’s Worst Clerics”, Foreign Policy, June 18 2009, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/06/18/irans_worst_clerics?page=0,4 and “Intelligence Min: Israel Plans to Assassinate Ahmadinejad,” Fars News Agency, July 18, 2007. Available: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8804270755.
[9] “Critics Purged as Ahmadinejad Nominates New Iran Cabinet,” The Guardian, August 20 2009. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/20/mahmoud-ahmadinejad-nominates-iran-cabinet.
[10] Aresu Eqbali, “Ahmadinejad to name three women ministers,” Agence France Presse, August 16, 2009. Available: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gs-61ArZKIf6svXWpDxIkt2sv_-A.
[11] “Le président iranien Ahmadinejad présentera son gouvernement mercredi,” Agence France Presse, August 18, 2009. Available: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jKTNHaperHA24x5GsJUY6R9a8d8w.
[12] “Ali Akbar Mehrabian: Iran Minister Found Guilty of Fraud is Latest Blow to Ahmadinejad,” Huffington Post, July 27 2009. Available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/27/ali-akbar-mehrabian-iran_n_245724.html.
[13] Martin Fletcher, “President Ahmadinejad Nominates Cabinet of Inexperienced Cronies,” The Times, August 21 2009. Available: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6804550.ece.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi is most likely a pseudonym for Ahmad Vahid. Ali Alfoneh, “Ahmadinejad’s War Cabinet,” The Enterprise Blog, August 20 2009. Available:  http://blog.american.com/?p=4094.  
[16] Nazila Fathi, “Powerful quake in Iran kills 10,” The New York Times, November 28, 2005. Available: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0DE2DE1431F93BA15752C1A9639C8B63.
[17] “Advisor for youth affairs appointed,” Iran Daily, April 29, 2007. Available: http://www.iran-daily.com/1386/2829/pdf/i2.pdf .
[18] “Vice President Mashaii will not quit,” Tehran Times, August 24, 2008. Available: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=176073.
[19] "China supports Iran's use of peaceful N-tech," IranMania, November 17, 2005. Available: http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=37807&NewsKind=Current%20Affairs.
[20] “Iranian authorities tell citizens not to attack embassies,” AFX News, February 7, 2006. Available: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2006/02/07/afx2506146.html.
[21] Jon Leyne, “Iranian President Rewards Loyalty.”
[22] Ibid.
[23] “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Speaks Out Against Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei for Voicing Moderate Stance Toward Israel”, Timelines, July 23 2009, http://timelines.com/2009/7/23/ayatollah-ali-khamenei-speaks-out-against-vice-president-esfandiar-rahim-mashaei-for-voicing-moderate-stance-toward-israel and Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi, “In Iran, president’s deputy quits amid hard-line pressure”, The Boston Globe, July 25 2009, http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2009/07/25/in_iran_presidents_deputy_quits_amid_hard_line_pressure/ and  “Iran veep explains controversial remark on Israel”, Press TV, July 21 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=101271&sectionid=351020101 and Babak Sarfaraz, “Iran’s next Supreme Leader?” The Nation, July 23, 2009. Available: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090803/sarfaraz.
[24] “Iran's judiciary chief lauds U.S.-Iraqi pact,” Associated Press, November 17, 2008. Available: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-11-17-iran-pact_N.htm.
[25] Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim, “Iran's Ahmadinejad softens tone before Cabinet vote,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2009. Available: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iran-nominees21-2009aug21,0,3490819.story.
[26] “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Speaks Out Against Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei for Voicing Moderate Stance Toward Israel,” Timelines, July 23 2009. Available: http://timelines.com/2009/7/23/ayatollah-ali-khamenei-speaks-out-against-vice-president-esfandiar-rahim-mashaei-for-voicing-moderate-stance-toward-israel. And Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi, “In Iran, President’s Deputy Quits amid Hard-line Pressure,” The Boston Globe, July 25 2009. Available:
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