Who Is Ali Khamenei?


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Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is one of the most powerful and one of the most enigmatic people in the world. Often positioned as a primary global antagonist of the United States, Khamenei and his regime have endured five American presidents, and his story reveals, among other things, the consequences of American foreign policy. But Khamenei himself is a clever politician, a leader who has maintained the pious economic populism of the Iranian Revolution, and a tactician whose absolute authority is solidified through his relationship to institutions: namely, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Little of this, however, has brought any benefit to the people of Iran, who, for nearly 70 years, have found themselves living through one variety of authoritarianism or another. On this episode of “Who Is?,” Sean Morrow contends with absolute authority, the long shadow of history, and the uncertain future of a nation of more than 80 million.

  • Ervand Abrahamian, one of the world’s great historians of Iran. His forthcoming book, "Oil Crisis: From Nationalism to Coup d'Etat,” will be published in 2021
  • Mahnaz Afkhami, Founder, President, and CEO of the Women’s Learning Partnership and former Minister for Women’s Affairs in Iran. Her memoir, “The Other Side of Silence,” will be published in 2021
  • Maziar Bahari, a journalist, filmmaker, and founder of IranWire, a forum which presents Iranian citizen journalism covering national and local news
  • Trita Parsi, co-Founder and Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, as well as the Founder and former President of the National Iranian American Council

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52 episodes