Who is Ali Akbar Ahmadian, Iran’s new security chief?
Ahmadian is a career military man who has not held any known positions in any presidential administrations.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has appointed a veteran commander with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as the country’s new security chief.
Ali Akbar Ahmadian, 62, was named on Monday as the new secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), replacing Ali Shamkhani, who held the post for close to a decade.
Ahmadian takes the reins of the SNSC at a time of rapidly accelerating diplomatic regional efforts facilitated by his predecessor, including the re-establishment of ties with rival Saudi Arabia after a China-brokered agreement in March.
Iran’s relations with the West, however, remain sour. A landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers remains in limbo, while Iran has been accused of supplying Russia with armed drones for the war in Ukraine and tensions have steadily risen following nationwide protests that erupted across the country in September last year.
A military man
Unlike his predecessor, who navigated both politics and military affairs for decades, Ahmadian has been a full military man, with no publicly known experience in presidential administrations or as a diplomat.
Shamkhani, who was the last figure remaining within the top echelons of power of the establishment who was appointed during the tenure of former moderate President Hassan Rouhani, had been a career military man who also went on to do stints in reformist, centrist and conservative governments.
Ahmadian, however, has built his career entirely within the IRGC.
He rose through the ranks of the elite force due to his efforts during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s and held senior coordination positions across IRGC headquarters in several Iranian provinces.
In the late 1990s, Ahmadian became the IRGC Navy’s chief commander, having previously served as Shamkhani’s deputy in the force. Iranian state media described him as one of the architects of the modern IRGC Navy and an early theorist of Iran’s favoured asymmetrical style of combat.
Ahmadian was then promoted to the leadership of the IRGC Joint Staff, a position he held from 2000 to 2007. In the final two years of his tenure, he was also the director of the force’s Imam Hussein University.
From 2007 onwards, he led the IRGC Strategic Centre, where he has reportedly been an influential figure in shaping security and military policies, as well as in developing the force’s missiles programme.
Less than one year ago, he was among five new members appointed to the country’s influential Expediency Council by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Ahmadian hails from the same province, Kerman, as Qassem Soleimani, previously Iran’s foremost general and second-most powerful man, who was assassinated in a United States drone strike in Iraq in 2020.
He holds a PhD in strategic management from the Supreme National Defense University and a master’s degree in defence sciences, in addition to a PhD in dentistry.