While American (and some European) politicians may often come from ordinary backgrounds, their lifestyles usually change dramatically when they are in office, and by the time they have reached the pinnacle of power, they are long removed from their more humble roots. Iranian leaders in the Islamic Republic, however, clerical or lay, continue to live their lives almost exactly as they always have, living in modest houses in their own neighborhoods surrounded by their social peers, driving nondescript cars, and maintaining their social networks. There is no presidential palace, no equivalent of the White House, in Tehran, and despite the wealth of the Islamic Republic, no fleet of limousines, or even the level of security one would assume, for Iran's leadership. The presidential automobile is a Peugeot (albeit armored), and President Ahmadinejad lives in the same house he always has in a lower-middle-class neighborhood, while his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, lives in a small villa, nice but not especially so, in North Tehran. It was Khatami, who remarked to me, on a trip to the United States after his presidency, with genuine surprise and not a little admiration, that the security offered him by the State Department (as well as the limousines and SUVs) as an ex-head of state was far more comprehensive (and luxurious) than anything he had as president in Iran. He also remarked how very much it resulted in his trip occurring inside a "bubble".
Hooman Majid: The Ayatollah begs to differ