Soleimani 'Trenchmate' Akbar Ahmadian Becomes New Chair of Iran's Security Council
© Office of the Supreme Leader of IranAn undated handout picture obtained from the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on May 22, 2023, shows Revolutionary Guards general Ali Akbar Ahmadian (L) speaking with slain Iranian Major-General Qasem Soleimani during a meeting in Tehran. Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi on May 22 appointed Ahmadian as the new secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, replacing longtime chief and leading Gulf mediator Ali Shamkhani.
As head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Adm. Al Shamkhani helped negotiate some of the republic’s greatest diplomatic feats, including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 and the normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
On Monday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi issued a decree appointing Brig. Gen. Al Akbar Ahmadian as new secretary of the SNSC, the Islamic Republic’s national security council. Ahmadian replaces Shamkhani, who held the position for more than a decade.
Who is Ahmadian?
Ahmadian, 62, is the director of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Strategic Center and a member of the Expediency Council, an advisory body to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that also irons out disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council.
© Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency (IRNA)Iranian IRGC Brig. Gen. Al Akbar Ahmadian, appointed as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) on May 22, 2023
Iranian IRGC Brig. Gen. Al Akbar Ahmadian, appointed as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) on May 22, 2023
He also served as commander of the IRGC navy from 1997 to 2000 and was IRGC chief of staff for seven years and has been chief of the IRGC Strategic Center for 16 years.
Ahmadian is a graduate of the University of Tehran in dentistry and has a PhD in strategic management from the Supreme National Defense University of Iran. He was appointed to the Expediency Council last year by the Supreme Leader.
One Iranian news agency described Ahmadian as a "trenchmate" to Lt. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the former commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force who was assassinated by the United States in a 2020 drone strike outside Baghdad. Both men were company commanders during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, leading troops into battle to repulse the Iraqi invasion of Khuzestan.
Iranian media did not indicate why Shamkhani was removed from his post, or if he would be given a new position. He had been SNSC secretary since 2013 and oversaw several key diplomatic deals that helped end some of Iran’s geopolitical isolation, including the JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal that saw the West lower its economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran accepting limitations on its nuclear power program and forswearing the pursuit of nuclear weapons.
He also oversaw Iran’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and its rapprochement with Saudi Arabia.
An ethnic Arab from Khuzestan, Shamkhani was a guerilla fighter against the Pahlavi monarchy prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, then joined the nascent IRGC and helped lead the fight against the Iraqi invasion that began in September 1980. He is the only Iranian leadership figure to have served on the brass of both the IRGC and the Iranian Army, and his career has spanned administration across the political spectrum. He was one of the few holdouts in Raisi’s government who had previously served under President Hassan Rouhani.
According to some reports in the Western press, Shamkhani was believed to have been implicated in some kind of corruption scandal. The accusation is based on the purported leaking to the Western press of minutes from a meeting between Khamenei and senior clerics and IRGC commanders. Shamkhani has denied the accusations.
However, one anonymous source described as an "Iranian insider" told one Western media outlet that Shamkhani might be considered for a "more important position," rather than removed in disgrace.