Who is Sadeq Larijani?

Militarization of the Iranian Judiciary


Who is Sadeq Larijani?
by Mehdi Khalaji

Sadeq Larijani, a young and inexperienced cleric with close ties to Iran's military and intelligence agencies, has replaced Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as head of the Iranian judiciary. This appointment is particularly significant, since the judiciary in Iran wields considerable power -- albeit through the approval of Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- and has a great deal of latitude to make decisions without reference to law or Islamic concepts, especially when "safeguarding the interests of the regime" is deemed necessary.

Who is Sadeq Larijani?

Born in 1960 in Najaf, Iraq, Sadeq Larijani is the son of Grand Ayatollah Hashem Amoli and the son-in-law of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani, currently one of the most widely followed marjas, "sources of emulation" whose rulings are regarded as binding by devout Shiite believers. Larijani's two older and well-known brothers -- Ali Larijani, speaker of the Majlis (Iranian parliament) and former nuclear negotiator, and Mohammad Javad Larijani, the deputy head of the judiciary, former deputy foreign affairs minister, and mathematics graduate from the University of California, Berkeley -- are also married into respected clerical families: Ali is the son-in-law of the late Morteza Motahhari, an ideologue of the Islamic government, and Mohammad Javad is the son-in-law of Hassan Hassanzadeh, an ayatollah in Qom. Khamenei, at one point the supervisor of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), became intimate with the Larijani family during Ali's several-year post as deputy commander of the IRGC.

Sadeq justifies his lack of political experience in a short autobiography on his website. Because he "felt that the West's cultural invasion was no less important than a military invasion," he decided to prepare himself for "confronting the cultural invasion," in part by learning English. He used his new language skills to translate several philosophical works, such as an article by Karl Popper on the philosophy of science and G. J. Warnock's Contemporary Moral Philosophy, the latter of which he annotated and critiqued from the Islamic point of view. Sadeq first made a name for himself by criticizing religious intellectuals such as Abdulkarim Soroush and eventually became one of the main voices of the Islamic Republic. Larijani taught courses on Islamic ideology, both at the seminary in Qom and at various IRGC bases around the country.

In 2001, Sadeq Larijani was the youngest jurist ever to be appointed to the Guardian Council, the twelve-person body responsible for approving all laws passed by the Majlis and for supervising elections. In the course of his Guardian Council activities, he has tried to remain under the radar by avoiding public appearances and media interviews. He has also made every effort to keep his relationships with Khamenei, the intelligence apparatus, and the IRGC under wraps.

Militarizing Iran's Institutions
In his twenty years in office, particularly in recent years, Khamenei has replaced military, political, economic, cultural, and clerical officials with a new generation of politicians and clerics who owe their political or religious credentials to him. The IRGC and intelligence apparatuses became the main avenues through which young ambitious men loyal to Khamenei could enter the political scene.

Although most of these new politicians and clerics are close to Khamenei, they are not traditional clerics with independent political and religious credentials, such as those who participated in the 1979 Revolution. Instead, most of the new generation began their careers in the military, the IRGC, and the intelligence services. Notable examples include Ahmad Khatami (no relation to former president Muhammad Khatami), an influential intelligence agent who is now a member of the Assembly of Experts and the Friday prayer Imam of Tehran; Ahmad Salek, Khamenei's representative in both the Qods Force and IRGC intelligence and a member of the Militant Clerics Society of Tehran; Hossein Taeb, the commander of Basij militia and former head of IRGC intelligence; and Sadeq Larijani.

Khamenei's Judiciary
Khamenei keeps close control of the Iranian judiciary: he not only appoints its head, but also gives unofficial recommendations to other high-ranking judiciary officials. Often a micromanager, Khamenei has been known to go over the judiciary's head, exemplified by his recent order to close the Kahrizak detention center in Tehran (a move that usually requires a court order). Critics say the closure was meant to prevent a Majlis investigation into abuse of the facility's prisoners -- most of whom were arrested following the postelection demonstrations.

Although the Iranian constitution mandates that the judiciary supervise all juridical and legal processes, some bodies, such as the Special Court of Clerics, work under Khamenei's direct supervision outside the judiciary's framework. Moreover, even though the IRGC, Basij, police, Intelligence Ministry, and Special Court of Clerics run many of Iran's detention centers, the judiciary has no jurisdiction over any of them. Further complicating matters, Khamenei is constitutionally the final arbiter in any dispute between government officials, with the right to overrule Islamic law when necessary to safeguard the interests of the regime. As such, the judiciary uses Islamic law as the basis for its decisions only when Khamenei sees such use as not in conflict with the regime's interests -- as he defines it.

Not only is the judiciary empowered to ignore Islamic law, it also bypasses the country's criminal law, particularly in politically related cases. This has led to harsh criticism by secular lawyers as well as clerics in the last two decades. In an open letter to Hashemi Shahroudi, for instance, published in Ettelaat newspaper on August 2, Ayatollah Mustafa Mohaqeq Damad, a prominent scholar of Islamic law, criticized the concept of the "interests of the regime," complaining, "The bitter taste of what happened in the judiciary under you, especially in recent days, would not be forgettable for Iranian people ... Under you, the judiciary, which is the pivot of society's security, is not only shaken but destroyed."


Iran's judiciary -- under the watchful eye of Iran's top leader -- has a great deal of power to shape the country's legal system and environment. Sadeq Larijani's ties to the IRGC and intelligence agencies provide ample reason to believe that he will use his new powers to crack down even further on human rights and civil liberties than did his predecessors. Moreover, Larijani's appointment signals that the judiciary, the IRGC, and the intelligence agencies will be more closely aligned than ever. Presumably, this state of affairs indicates that traditional ayatollahs deeply trained in Islamic law -- but who are not members of the intelligence-military-political circles -- will have a lesser role in government in years to come. Given the unstable situation in postelection Iran, such a scenario could be a recipe for continued and ongoing chaos.

Mehdi Khalaji is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Iranian politics and the politics of Shiite groups in the Middle East.


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Weather in Ghom !

by Harpi-Eagle on

Haj Agha Ostad, how is the weather in Ghom ?!!

Get rid of the Ahriman in your mind, ever heard of Kaveh Ahangar, Arash Kamangir, Babak Khramdin?  Get rid of Ahriman and Tazi mind set in your head before it's too late.  Some petti cash is not worth selling your soul. 




by Ostaad on




midwesty: I can easily

by vildemose on

midwesty: I can easily argue the same thing about your version but I'm not going to bother  becaue of your incivility. Most sociopaths have higher than average IQ.

 Hitler is one example.

 That will be the extent of my reply to your dergatory tone. so long!



by Midwesty on

"Ahamdinejad is a very disturbed individual and many underestimated his power of persuasion and strategic planning".

Didn't you just contradicted yourself in the same sentence? How a disturbed individual can be a good planner and a pursuasive person?

Why don't we beleieve that IRI is not a wholesome and stiff body of politics rather a very dynamic current comprised of many different branches of idealogies with different intensities. 

Your propagenda to depict Ahmadinejad as a tyrant and ruthless dictator leads to neverland where most of US politicians are eating grass.

Of course let's not forget the scare tactic is a very nice money making machine.

There is one institution in the US that has started and still blindly pounding on the drum of Hitler-like Ahmadinejad, and we all know who they are. They are same people who were hitting the drums of war on Iran for the last 9 years.

That makes me thinking if Ahmadinejad is doing some thing right.


boro jamesh kon ooooooosta

by fozolie on

How much are you getting paid in your paycheck to defend the Mollafia?

Mr. Fozolie


liberation8: I'm not saying

by vildemose on

liberation8: I'm not saying that you're making things up. However, based on historical precedents and many other indication, most importantly, "human factors", I predict that the anyone who becomes an obstructionist to what Ahamdinejad et al have cooked up for the future of Iran will be dealt with with no mercy in the long run. Ahamdinejad is a very disturbed individual and many underestimated his power of persuasion and strategic planning.

Ahmadinejad et al are also not a forgiving bunch and probably have plans in the pipeline to come up with some other shenanigans to once and for all chop the reformers head on the butcher block.

The reformers should be planning for such an eventuality. Not working under that assumption will only lead to their ultimate extinction.


No difference

by MRX1 on

Facist regime is changing one low life thug murderer with
another one that's all. The rest of it is all irrelevant......If all your concern is his nationality you have forgotten that there is no nationality, identity, border  in OMAT islam.....



by liberation08 on

"change is on the way and freedom is on the march"

those are your words, not mine. outright regime change would best serve the cause of freedom and democracy in iran, but that doesn't mean there's no value in discussing the differences between factions within the regime

you may not want to discuss such differences, but whether you like it or not, they are significant

i know someone in tehran who is a close friend of sadeq larijani. im not making things up



Let's not forget who...

by Ostaad on

Mr. Khalaji works for. Khalaji was handpicked by a notorious neo-con run organization, whose main aim is to garner opposition to Iran regardless of who is in power there. Khalaji has been dutifully serving those who want to harm Iran anyway they can in exchange for a lowly "analyst" position.

He starts his "analysis" in the flimsiest fashion by describing Larijani an "inexperienced cleric".  The he goes on to talk about his lineage and ties to the IIRG before hitting the note of "his lack of political experience" once more to make sure the reader won't forget the "inexperience" thing.

The rest of the "analysis" consists of the usual stale canned stuff that Mr. Khalaji has been feeding his bosses to justify his paycheck.

I'm still scratching my head wondering why he left the issue of "inexperience" hanging there without any elaboration. Could it be that Mr. Khalaji really does not know beans about the person he is writing about? This kind of shallow and cheap "analysis" may keep him employed at a neo-con anti-Iran outfit, but it sure does not deserve serious consideration by anyone who's sincerely interested in gaining knowledge about what is going on in Iran today.



by hazratee on

Just like his two brothers. I hate their accent when they talk Farsi.



by fozolie on

Concerning Nationality
Article 976 - The following persons are considered to be Iranian subjects
1 - All persons residing in Iran except those whose foreign nationality is established; the
foreign nationality of such persons is considered to be established if their documents of
nationality have not been objected to by the Iranian Government.
2- Those born Iran or outside whose fathers are Iranian.
3 - Those born in Iran of unknown parentage.
4 - Persons born in Iran of foreign parents, one of whom was also born in Iran.
5 - Persons born in Iran of a father of foreign nationality who have resided at least one
more year in Iran immediately after reaching the full age of 18; in other cases theirnaturalization as Iranian subjects will be subject to the stipulations for Iranian
naturalization laid down by the law.
6 - Every woman of foreign nationality who marries an Iranian husband.
7- Every foreign n who has obtained Iranian nationality
Note - Children born of foreign diplomatic and consular representatives are not affected
by Clause 4 and 5 of this Article.


Google Iranian Civil Code.

Good Luck.

Mr. Fozolie


Sag-e-zard baradar-e shoghale

by mehdi2009 on

Mr. Khalaji, 

Your conclusions are baffling to say the least. If this wasn't such a tragedy, it would be really comical and hence laughable.

To say that the supreme leader is now controlling the judiciary completely and militarized it to the hilt, you have totally lost the plot and have not been paying attention for the past 30 years.

The problem with Khameneie from the beginning was that he had no Charisma along with his lack of religious credibilty. He was a middle ranking cleric (just like the other henchman in your article), and therefore he could not cultivate a Cult of personality much like Stalin or other petty dictators for himself. However, he did the next best thing, and that was to make all of these incompetent IRGC and Bassij members his cronies, and much like himself gave them the positions which were way over their heads and hence fortify his position as their leader.

The IRI judiciary from the beginning of its existence in 1979 has been anything but what an independent, fair and competent body should be, and therefore the selection of another middle ranking Iraqi Born cleric (much like the predecessor) is nothing to be surprised by. This has been the regime's mode of operation from its inception, and since Ahmadinejad came to power, they took to much higher levels of incompetence and ineptitude.

The Judiciary head basically does the dirty work for the leader, be it Khameneie or whomever, therefore saying that now it is going to be more repressive is like saying should they kill 20 or 25 people today. They even know that crap has hit the fan really hit the fan, and they are just buying time for a miracle which will never come to save them.

People in Iran are so wise, and these Monkey Stalinist Show Trials are only for their base's consumption ( the most radical and brain washed members of IRGC and Bassij). Therefore rest assured that "Things actually are going from bad to worse for this CRIMINAL REGIME".

Salutations to all the sons and Daughters of Iran,



Thank you fozolie. So,

by vildemose on

Thank you fozolie.

So, I'm assuming that Larijani's both parents are Iranian?



by fozolie on

Iranian Law part of the statute book prior Islamic Rule holds every Iranian born to an Iranian anywhere to be Iranian. It's got nothing to do with the regime in power.

Having said that our friend Liber.... has his or her head in the sand.

Mr. Fozolie



by Abarmard on

Things are getting from bad to worse


Liberation08: It sounds like

by vildemose on

Liberation08: It sounds like you're still clinging to the hope that this regime is reformable and change in on the way and freedom is on the march if we just waited another 30 years, right?


Liber... Really? since

by vildemose on


Really? since when?


khalaji misses one main point

by liberation08 on

larijani may be an ahmadinejad rival. he has acknowledged that were was fraud in the election and he may wish to lessen the extent of ahmadinejad's repression


one does not need to be born in iran to be iranian

Ari Siletz

Good summary info.

by Ari Siletz on

Thank you.


He is not even Iranian??

by vildemose on

He is not even Iranian?? Born in Najaf!!


If history is any

by vildemose on

If history is any indication, that's what happens almost all of the time when fascists take over all the levers of power. Iran is becoming a full-fledge fascistic military run government a la Hitler. 


Bozak nameer Bahar meyad ,

by darius on

Bozak nameer Bahar meyad , kharboze ba khiar meyad