Writing for The Iran Primer, Kourosh Rahimkhani offers an introduction to Presidential Chief of Staff --- and possible 2013 Presidential candidate --- Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai:
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei was born in 1960 in a northern Iranian village. He participated in his town’s revolutionary rallies as an 18-year-old and studied electrical engineering at Isfahan University after the revolution. In 1981, Mashaei joined the Revolutionary Guards intelligence unit after the Mujahedeen-e Khalq instigated an armed campaign against the Iranian government during the Iran-Iraq War. He was later dispatched to Kurdistan, where Kurdish militants were battling forces loyal to the newly formed Islamic Republic. Mashaei championed a cultural-propaganda campaign, rather than a purely coercive counterinsurgency, to deal with the Kurds.
In 1984, Mashaei joined the Intelligence Ministry in Kurdistan, where he met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then governor of the northwestern city of Khoy. The two men developed a close friendship that has endured almost three decades.
In 1986, Mashaei was appointed director of an Intelligence Ministry department that dealt with ethnic issues in sensitive regions. He left Kurdistan to help formulate a national strategy. In 1993, he became head of the Interior Ministry’s Social Affairs Department under President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. After the 1997 victory of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Mashaei left the Interior Ministry and worked for state radio, which is under the direct control of the Supreme Leader.
In 2003, Mashaei joined the staff of Tehran’s new mayor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after he was selected by the conservative municipal council. He headed the city’s cultural-artistic affairs organization. Among his controversial initiatives, Mashaei proposed building a major thoroughfare to prepare for the arrival of the twelfth Shiite Imam—the Mahdi or “Hidden Imam”—who disappeared in the ninth century. The Mahdi will return as a messiah as the world comes to an end, according to Shiite eschatology.