Who is he?:
The Supreme Leader of Iran, career cleric and leader of Twelver Shiite Muslims
. The last word on all dealings in the Islamic Republic, even the confirmation of an elected president, and an international mouthpiece for the Islamic Revolution as the second ayatollah to serve as the conservative figurehead since 1979.
July 17, 1939, in Mashhad, the second largest city in Iran and a holy city in Shiite Islam. His father, Sayyid Jawad, was a well-known religious scholar. Khamenei has described a "humble" upbringing in a one-room house, which was eventually upgraded to a three-room house with help from family friends. He also said the family, where he was the second of eight children, sometimes lacked food. At the age of four, he was sent to a school to begin learning the Quran. Two of his brothers are also clerics. Khamenei continued his religious education and Arabic language studies through his childhood, and as a young adult studied in the holy city of Qom. He returned home at age 25 to care for his ailing parents.
Married to Khojasteh Khamenei, estimated to be about four years younger than the ayatollah. The two married in 1964. Khojasteh is reportedly in charge of choosing husbands and wives in the household; the couple have five children, Mojtaba, Mostafa, Masoud, Meysam, Hoda and Boshra. Mojtaba reportedly has great influence on his father and the two have a daily meeting. Khamenei wakes at 4 a.m. each day and begins meeting with his chief of staff at 6 a.m. He lives in the deposed Shah's palaces and has reportedly added on to them, including a bunker to protect against nuclear attack. Khamenei speaks Persian and Arabic. He survived an assassination attempt in 1981 that left his right arm paralyzed. Because of assets including oil sales and arms, estimates have placed his personal wealth in the tens of billions.
Khamenei was leader of the theocracy-aimed Islamic Republican Party from 1979 until its dissolution in 1987. Under the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he served as leader of Friday prayers beginning in 1989, and deputy minister of defense, supervisor of the Revolutionary Guards, and president of Iran until Khomeini's death.
Khamenei's background includes participating in the original protests against the Shah, and he continued the Islamic Revolution push through protests and expressing dissent while his mentor Khomeini was in exile. Khamenei served several stints behind bars and went through a period of exile himself. The Assembly of Experts elected Khamenei, a key lieutenant of Khomeini, to be the new Supreme Leader on June 4, 1989.
Khamenei's appointment as Supreme Leader raised some eyebrows as it was seen by some as due more to his connection with the late Khomeini and less to his religious credentials. The ayatollah has continued the strident anti-U.S., anti-West, anti-Israel credos of his predecessor, and has employed modern means of dissemination such as Twitter and an English-language website to spread his messages. The most public of the skirmishes in Iran's furtive leadership
has been the power struggle between Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
; the ayatollah has gone as far as to suggest that the post of an elected president may not be needed someday. But the entire government in Tehran may be imperiled if the democracy fervor seen in the quashed 2009 election protests
(opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi
, incidentally, used to be prime minister in Khamenei's presidency) is successfully reignited in the post-Arab Spring region.
"The Iranian people's hatred for America is profound."