Saeed Jalili, of discreet manners and worldly presentation, is also a combat veteran of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, in which he fought with the powerful Revolutionary Guards, a point in common with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Born in 1965, Jalili is married to a doctor; they have one child.
When Ahmadinenad was elected president in 2005, Jalili became his advisor, and then Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs. But his old friend did not support his candidacy in this election, instead backing Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
Jalili was relatively unknown internationally until Ahmadinejad appointed him head of the National Security Council in 2007. Then he led the Iranian delegation in negotiations on the nuclear programme. He demonstrated what was interpreted as ideologically-based firmness in dealings with the West. During his tenure on the Council, the UN toughened sanctions against Iran three times.
Some saw his approach as rigidity dressed in the language of diplomacy. For instance, he said: “As an active member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we are ready to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it, as always, has the highest level of surveillance over Iran’s activities.”
Jalili’s refusal to back down was appreciated by Iran’s Supreme Leader the ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to whom Jalili was faithfully devoted. He integrated this into his campaign.
Jalili said: “We have said time and again that we seek to expand the power of Islam in the world and diminish the influence of arrogant powers.”
Where Iran’s domestic affairs are concerned, the main stakes are reining in the growth of unemployment and high inflation. Jalili proposes that Iran’s increasingly dysfunctional economy be weaned off its heavy dependence on oil.