The administration of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi is littered with criminals with a penchant for terror and suppression, and Esmail Khatib the new head of the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) is no exception.
Like many members of Ebrahim Raisi’s cabinet, Esmail Khatib is coming out of the shadows. Virtually unknown to the West, his name does well generate shivers among the ruling class.
During the past 43 years, Khatib has been linked to the deaths of clerics, intelligence agents, and guards who posed threats to the reign of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his heir. Khatib has worked closely with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence unit.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was founded in 1980, with the goal to safeguard the supreme leader’s rule. Even though Ruhollah Khomeini, then supreme leader, had handpicked the highest among the ranks of Iran’s classic army (called the Artesh), he still didn’t trust the organization to overcome the main threat to his regime: domestic dissent.
Khatib was recruited by Mohsen Rezaei, the first commander-in-chief of the IRGC, and served in the IRGC Intelligence Unit between 1985 and 1991. During his time there, one of his most high-profile cases was the plot to arrest and execute Ayatollah Montazeri’s son-in-law, Mehdi Hashemi who oversaw the Liberation Movements Unit in the IRGC.
In 1986, the United States government sent a special envoy to Iran to a secret meeting with Khomeini, while they were trying to free American hostages from the regime’s proxy groups in Lebanon.
The meeting that led to a deal over weapons sales between Tehran and the ‘Great Satan’ was leaked to Ayatollah Montazeri’s office through people that were close to him – allegedly people like Mehdi Hashemi.
Subsequently, the leak of the weapons deal caused a major scandal, both in Tehran and across the West, and was famously known as ‘Iran Gate’.
Khatib later became the head of security of Ali Khamenei’s house in 2010, a role which he served until 2012. He was then requested to lead Sadegh Amoli Larijani’s intelligence department in the judiciary.
Following Raisi’s earlier failed presidential campaign, Khamenei put plans down to get Raisi selected as the head of the executive branch, no matter what the cost. As a result, Larijani was asked to step down as the head of the judiciary, even though his second term in the role had not ended.
Before this campaign started, the establishment transferred Esmail Khatib to the Astan Quds Razavi to remove all his ties to what was going to happen next.
Following the arrest of Akbar Tabari, the executive deputy of the judiciary, in July 2019, Raisi began using state media to paint himself as a champion in the struggle against corruption. When Raisi became president and announced his cabinet, Khatib became the candidate to take the head position at the MOIS, one of the highest national security posts in the regime that reports directly to Khamenei.
With a series of blatant security lapses behind and preparing for the rainy days ahead, it is certain that Esmail Khatib, armed with the most barbaric and brutal killing apparatus, is willing to cleanse everything and everyone to preserve Khamenei’s sway.
The state-run daily Kayhan previously added, ‘Ibrahim Raisi also named Khatib as the best option for the protection and intelligence of the judiciary and said that he is very knowledgeable and efficient in both intelligence and security work.’