Scholar with a dangerous bite

He runs the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute and two other educational institutions in the holy shrine city of Qom. All are offshoots of the Haqqani seminary, one of Qom’s most prestigious theological schools, which teaches that Islam and democracy are incompatible. The Ahmadinejad government has endowed the seminary with generous subsidies.

Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi’s influence goes beyond the security forces: his supporters also occupy sensitive posts in the intelligence ministry and judiciary. “He has trained a lot of people in theological schools who have been absorbed into the system, which gives him a lot of influence within the system – although not outside it,” said an Iran scholar and former seminary student who requested anonymity. “He’s very hardline, very learned, but politically naïve.”


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