Iran Primer: Iran's Political Elite
by Mehrzad Boroujerdi and Kourosh Rahimkhani
PBS, 01 Nov 2010
Abdi, Abbas (1956- ) A leading journalist and political analyst. He was one of the students who took over the American embassy on November 4, 1979. In 1999, he took part in a debate with one of the former hostages at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. An engineer by training, he served after the revolution in the intelligence agencies, the judiciary, and the Center for Strategic Studies, which is affiliated with the Office of the President. He was imprisoned for eight months in 1993 for writing critical columns in the Salam newspaper and later served a three-year jail term (2002-2005) for conducting a poll on behalf of Gallup that showed more than 74 percent of Iranians were interested in rapprochement with the United States.
Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud (1956- ) A conservative populist politician who won 61 percent of the votes in a runoff presidential election against former president Rafsanjani in 2005. He was reelected in a disputed vote in 2009 that gave birth to the opposition Green Movement. Son of a blacksmith, he earned a doctorate in transport engineering and served with both the Basij and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) during the Iran-Iraq War. In his website profile, he claims that during the war he worked as a Basij volunteer in the engineering group in Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan. He reportedly became a member of the IRGC in 1986 when he joined the Guards' Special Forces division. Afterward, he served as governor general of Khoi and Mako, governor of Ardabil, mayor of Tehran (2003-2005), and then president. His acerbic comments about Israel and the United States and his messianic discourse have made him a controversial figure in international politics.