Thursday, July 18, 2024
HomeIran News NowIran Regime News - Inside Source ReportsWho Is Vahid Haghanian, The Invisible Hand of Khamenei Now in Iran's...

Who Is Vahid Haghanian, The Invisible Hand of Khamenei Now in Iran’s Presidential Spotlight

Vahid Haghanian, known for his close ties to the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has decided to enter the presidential race without any prior executive record. Haghanian, a figure rarely seen in the media, held up his identification document in front of cameras at the Ministry of Interior’s election headquarters on June 1, officially announcing his candidacy. He stated that his “decision to run was personal.”

Vahid Haghanian’s Background

Born in 1961 in Tehran, Brigadier General Vahid Haghanian joined the Islamic Revolutionary Committees after the 1979 revolution and became part of the West Tehran Strike Groups, known for the bloody suppression of dissident groups. In 1984, he joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and soon commanded the IRGC’s security patrols in Tehran, known as “Sarallah Patrols.”

An Iranian political activist states, “Vahid Haghanian’s acquaintance with Khamenei dates back to the years 1979 and 1980. During this period, Haghanian was the driver for Abdollah Jasbi, a member of the Central Council of the Islamic Republican Party, and after some time, he became the driver for Ali Khamenei.”

Vahid Haghanian (left) standing next to slain IRGC Quds commander Qassem Soleimani (center) and IRGC Chief Hossein Salami (right)

It is said that he now lives next door to Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, the head of Khamenei’s office. He rapidly climbed the ranks in the IRGC despite his lack of military background.

For some time, he acted as the commander of the Navy Intelligence Unit of the IRGC. In 1987, during the war with Iraq, Haghanian was injured in the Battle of Beit-ol-Moqaddas III, sustaining abdominal and leg wounds, injuries that are still evident when he walks.

In late 1988, he was transferred to the Quds Force, where he served as a commander for four years, mostly focusing on Eastern Bloc countries.

The Imam Ali Headquarters is another key location where Haghanian has long been active, earning a reputation among IRGC forces as a permanent fixture of the base, which has undergone numerous changes over the years while Haghanian remained.

By 1992, he was transferred to Khamenei’s office by Mohammad Golpayegani, taking on security responsibilities. Since the mid-2000s, he has served as the Executive Deputy of Khamenei’s office.

Vahid Haghanian’s dark record

Haghanian is often remembered as a close aide to Khamenei, frequently seen monitoring Khamenei’s speeches from behind the scenes. His proximity to Mojtaba Khamenei, the Supreme Leader’s son, underscores his influence within the regime’s highest echelons of power. During the 2009 protests, Haghanian, alongside Mojtaba, played a key role in quelling dissent. He was also directly involved in the house arrest of former officials like Mehdi Karroubi and his wife.

Mohammad Hossein Turkaman, a former member of the Supreme Leader’s Protection Corps, has said, “After the formation of the Sarallah Corps by IRGC Commander Aziz Jafari, Vahid Haghanian remained one of the key commanders of this corps. As you know, the Sarallah Corps and the Mohammad Rasulollah Corps were organized in 2009 by Mojtaba Khamenei and Vahid Haghanian.”

Mojtaba Khamenei (right), the Supreme Leader’s most influential son, whispers to Vahid Haghanian (left)

Following the 2009 uprising, in an incident surrounding the mysterious death of Ali Habibi Mousavi, the nephew of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Vahid Haghanian’s name was also mentioned. According to state media, after security forces prevented the delivery of Habibi Mousavi’s body to his family, a call was made to the home of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s sister in the middle of the night. The caller introduced himself as a member of Khamenei’s office and stated that “Mr. Vahid intends to speak with Engineer Mousavi on behalf of the Supreme Leader and express his condolences.”

When Mir-Hossein Mousavi refused to speak with Haghanian, one of his advisors took the call instead. After the call ended, it was announced that the executive official of the Leader’s Office intended to visit Mousavi’s sister’s home to offer condolences in person. Upon learning this, Mousavi left his sister’s house and assigned two of his advisors to speak with Vahid Haghanian. The result of Vahid Haghanian’s visit and several hours of negotiation with the mourning family and Mousavi’s advisors was the delivery of the body in the middle of the night and its sudden burial the next morning.

Khamanei’s shadow man

The former IRGC General is also known for relaying political directives and inclinations on behalf of Khamenei. Even though scattered images of Vahid Haghanian exist from 1989 and 1992, the most vivid picture of him was drawn by Abolfazl Fateh, a consultant to Mir-Hossein Mousavi, in June 2009. Fateh said, “When I took Mousavi’s ‘secret letter’ to Khamenei, I handed it over to Vahid Haghanian. He said he had advised the Ministry of Interior on how to announce the vote count, but Ahmadinejad is the winner.”

Haghanian had a prominent presence at Ahmadinejad’s inauguration ceremony in the regime’s Parliament, seated in the front row among top military commanders, giving the impression that he held a higher rank than all the present military officials, such as former Chief-of-Staff of Armed Forces Hassan Firouzabadi and IRGC Chief Aziz Jafari.

Vahid Haghanian (center) visiting the earthquake-stricken city of Kermanshah in western Iran, November 2017

Since 2016, when he visited the collapsed Plasco building and shortly after the Azadshahr mine incident in Golestan Province, his presence at various events has made him a notable figure as Khamenei’s special representative. This included attending a cake-cutting ceremony honoring Qalibaf, who stood next to Hassan Khomeini, and sitting in the front row at Mohsen Hojaji’s funeral.

Hojaji was an IRGC commander who was killed in Syria.

In the 6 trillion toman property scandal in Kelak Lavasan, where the continuation of construction was ordered by Sadegh Larijani through his chief aide Akbar Tabari but halted by Vahid Haghanian, some viewed the case as a proxy war between Haghanian and Larijani.

Ali Khamenei (center) hiking alongside Vahid Haghanian (left of Khamenei) and Mojtaba Khamenei (left of Haghanian)

Nonetheless, his new role did not overshadow Haghanian’s political missions. In mid-May 2017, it was reported that he had gone to the Ministry of Interior and held an election meeting with Rouhani’s VP Eshagh Jahangiri, and former Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. A little over three months later, he stood between Hassan Rouhani and Khamenei to hand over the endorsement decree for Rouhani to become the regime’s new president.

In a video shot in November 2017 during his visit to earthquake-stricken areas in western Iran, Vahid Haghanian is seen slamming the Rouhani government for blaming state-affiliated construction companies that built vulnerable housing apartments. This statement was later interpreted by officials and media as a prelude to the disqualification of Rouhani’s Vice President, Jahangiri, in the 2021 elections by the Guardian Council.

Vahid Haghanian and the Iranian regime’s sham elections

In June 2021, following the regime’s sham election that elevated Ebrahim Raisi to the presidency, Vahid Haghanian published an appreciation letter thanking presidential candidates Mohsen Rezaee, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh, and Abdolnaser Hemmati for participating in the election and calling for “their cooperation.” This gesture sparked widespread criticism in state media, with many questioning Haghanian’s motives and arguing that the move suggested the other candidates were merely ceremonial.

On November 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Haghanian and eight other close associates of Khamenei. The department’s statement described Haghanian as Khamenei’s “right-hand man,” detailing his role as the Supreme Leader’s Executive Deputy and his frequent presence at official events.

Vahid Haghanian (center) at the inauguration ceremony of former regime’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009

On July 3, 2022, the state-run website Iran Dideban mentioned Haghanian’s past senior positions in Khamenei’s office, highlighting his constant presence alongside the Supreme Leader during official trips and events, even stepping in during key moments such as the endorsement of the tenth presidential election when Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani refused to stand next to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Despite his extensive security background, Haghanian also has a controversial past, including the execution of Mohsen Saravani. Some media sources say Saravani was trusted and introduced to influential positions by Haghanian before being executed on charges of espionage for Israel.

Following the fatal helicopter crash involving Ebrahim Raisi, Haghanian officially registered as a candidate for the regime’s presidential election. In his speech at the Ministry of Interior’s election headquarters, he stated, “Since the age of 18, I have been active in the Islamic Republic Party. During my 45 years of service in the presidency and the Supreme Leader’s office, I have consulted with senior officials and am well-versed in the country’s issues. My decision to run for the fourteenth presidential term of Iran is personal. Navigating this historical juncture and the new world order requires collective wisdom, broad public participation, and the utilization of the country’s material and spiritual resources.”

Who is Vahid Haghanian, the invisible hand of Khamenei now in Iran’s presidential spotlight