Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Structure of Power in the Islamic Repulic of Iran.




                   The
   Structure of Power
                 In the
     Islamic Republic
           Of Iran





Written by: Mehran Sirani                                               2012




                                         

                                       









































                                           Table of Contents
Acknowledgment……………………………………………………………………...2
Table of Contents……………………………………………………………………..3
List of Abbreviations…………………………………………………………………5
Abstract……………………………………………………………………………….6
Chapter1.Introduction……………………………………………………………….7
1.1. Research Questions………………...…………….………………………………9
1.2. Methodology.………...…………….…………………………………..………...10
1.3. Challenges and Limitations………………....…………………………………..10
Chapter2. Factionalism………………………………………………………………11
2.1. The Political Factions…………………………...……………………………….11
2.2. The Conservatives………………………………………………………………..11
2.3. The (Former) Radicals or (Current) Reformists…………………...………….11
2.4. The Pragmatic Conservatives…………………………………………………...11
2.5. The Neo – Conservatives………………………………………………………...12
Chapter3. The Structure of Power…………………………………………………..13
3.1. The Structure of Power within the Islamic Regime…………………………...13
3.2. The Style of Governance and Dualism………………….………………………13
3.3. The Executive Authority………………………………….……………………..16
3.4. The Judicial Authority……………………………………….………………….19
3.4.1. The Clerical Select Court…………………………………….………………..20
3.5. The Legislative Authority……………………………………….……………....22
3.5.1. The Islamic Consultative Assembly………………………….……………….22
3.5.2. The Guardian Council………………………………………….……………..24
3.5.3. The Expediency Discernment Council……………………….………………25
3.6. The Supreme Leadership Institution…………………………………………..28
3.6.1. The Theory of Supreme Leadership…………………………………………28
3.6.2. The Supreme Leadership in Iran…………………………………………….30
3.6.3. The Foundations (Some Financial &Propaganda Tools)...…………………32
3.6.4. The Office of the Supreme Leader…………………………………….……..34
3.6.5. The Ministry of Intelligence and National Security…………………...……34
3.6.6. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij………………………...36
Conclusion……….…..……………………………………………………………….40
Future Perspective…………………………………………………………………...41
References…………….………………………………………………….…………...42
                                         The List of Figures

Figure 1: The Judiciary System……………………………………………………22
Figure 2: The Legislative System…………………………………………………..28
Figure 3: The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic of Iran………………37






























                                                              






















                                                       





                                                             List of Abbreviations


IAEA – The International Atomic Energy Agency

IRI – Islamic Republic of Iran








































Abstract:

Undoubtedly, the Islamic Regime bears one of the most atrocious and complicated power structures in comparison with other present political systems in the world. The combination of republicanism and ideological characteristic of this regime has created a peculiar political system in Iran. The structure of power in this political system is based upon four main pillars of the Supreme leadership, Executive, Judicial and Legislative authorities. It would appear that all these authorities are independent and act separately within the structure of this political system. However, a closer and more accurate analysis revealed that this assumption is incorrect and the actual power structure is different. This research explored the relative strength of the Supreme leadership institutions and its effects on the Executive, Judicial and Legislative authorities within this political system by using the Islamic regime’s constitutional law and some other references. Overall the research report elaborated the existing power structure in Iran and explained in short the roles and responsibilities of the four main pillars of power and how they are linked to each other. 

















Chapter1: Introduction
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the ruling regime has been going through many turbulent and eventful periods in both internal and external arenas. During these periods many adverse socio-economic, political and cultural consequences have been imposed upon the Iranian society as well as international community particularly in the Middle East. The very first victims of such adversaries have been none other than the absolute majority of Iranian people in many aspects. Iranian people have had to endure the traditional and medieval laws extracted directly from the Islamic holy book “The Quran” and other narratives commonly referred to by the Islamic advocates as “Hadith”.
The clerical rulers have tried to institutionalise the Islamic culture in all walks of Iranian peoples’ lives. In doing so, the Islamic regime has imposed full domination and explicit control over the Iranian society via repression, persecution and other means, such as propaganda through various media and educational system. By implementing Islamic penal laws, such as stoning to death, amputation of hands and feet, public executions and whiplashing, eye gouging and execution of juveniles, the socio- cultural infrastructure of the Iranian society has been profoundly impaired and disintegrated. The net outcome of implementing such governance has been the wide spread of deprivation of the most basic human rights and other internationally accepted civil liberties specially for women and other religious and national minorities within the Iranian society(Afshari, 2011).
As a result, the Iranian society has been transformed into a massive penal institution as wide as the country itself. The history of all these years shows that any objections or outcries against such medieval treatments, or indeed any rallying in defence of freedom, democracy, secularism or basic human rights, however peaceful or in absolute social manner, have been responded by all kinds of punitive reactions by the state. Physical and psychological torture, rape while in custody, long prison sentences, death by execution and social deprivation are all but common responses by the so called judiciary system within the Islamic Republic of Iran. The scale of repression and physical elimination of the opposition groups and individuals was never limited to the inland boundaries. Many opposition group leaders and notable political figures in exile have also been targeted and become the victims of terror by the clerical establishment. In a report published by the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights, up until 1996 only, 150 cases of attempted individual and mass assassinations of the Opposition figures abroad were recorded. The total number of deaths as a result of these attempts was reported to be 350 (Afshari, 2011).
In the economic sphere, Iran is amongst the richest nations due to its massive oil and gas reserves. From such massive levels of oil and gas production, it would be expected that Iran and its nation should enjoy from a healthy economy and to be relishing from a sound socio-economic welfare system. However, the reality demonstrates the opposite. The combination of chronic mismanagement, massive corruption and abuse of power by the authorities, along with complete elimination of state subsidies with ill-fated privatisations and recently added widespread international economic sanctions, has imposed harsh economic conditions upon the Iranian people. Consequently, domestic industries and production lines are facing bankruptcy on a daily basis and hence the rate of unemployment and arbitrary pricings are adding to the widespread poverty across the nation. Such adverse conditions, which applies to majority of Iranian working population, has manifested itself in most Iranian wage earners to resort to longer hours of work, or to engage in more than one job in order to make the ends meet (Sirani, 2010, 2011). (This paragraph is a translated summary of two articles about these issues which I published in Persian Websites).    
The extent of the impairment caused by the Islamic Regime, has not been only limited to its national boundaries. The consequences of the ill adopted foreign policies and hegemonic religious expansion of the Regime have also had a devastating impact on the international community; particularly within the Middle East region. The aspiration of exporting the Islamic revolution to neighbouring countries and beyond, along with meddling with the regional countries’ internal affairs can be considered as one of the inherent virtues of the Islamic Regime. In doing so, the Islamic Regime has been resorting to the most inhumane, unlawful, and unethical means and measures such as death threats (e.g. Salman Rushdie), hostage taking of foreign nationals (e.g. American diplomats in Tehran and Western national in Lebanon), bombing (e.g. Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in Buenos Aires), spreading anti-western propaganda and financially sponsoring fanatic Islamic armed organisations such as “Hamas” and “Hezbollah”. The amplitude of Islamic Regime’s intractable interferences and meddling has caused instability, insecurity and escalated tensions in different countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. This attitude accompanied by daily rhetoric and agitations has deepened the political crises and has consequently threatened the stability, balance of power and international peace; particularly in the strategic region of the Middle East (Kepel, 2002).
In addition to the above, the Islamic Regime in Iran has also imposed a more serious threat to the international community by pursuing its efforts to acquire nuclear capability. Iran claims that its nuclear programmes are geared towards peaceful means such as generating electricity, medical research and other scientific projects. However, the lack of transparency, a full commitment to collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) along with secret nuclear programmes paint a different picture of Islamic Regime’s nuclear activities. In its latest report, the IAEA has explicitly declared that due to Iran’s non-cooperative mindset, they could not be certain about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programmes. Such adopted approach by Iran so far, has also created a nuclear standoff between Iran and the international community with failure in any negotiations over the matter (IAEA, 2010).  
With reference to the above, one can now fully understand the acute and critical path taken up by the Islamic Regime. Any conventional political system would have crumbled under such deep levels of crises and challenges or in the least it would have made relative adjustments to the adopted policies, in order to ease the tension for its own survival. Nevertheless, all the indications point to the fact that the Islamic Regime is an exception in its own kind and the clerical rulers of Iran have so far managed to boldly hang on to their power.

However, the domestic repressive practices, along with the expansionist foreign interventions of the Islamic Regime have been repeatedly opposed and contended both internally and internationally, but none appear to prove to have been effective. Such pressures and crises may have, from time to time, hindered or even have managed to stall the Regime in pursuing its long term agenda. Nevertheless, thirty three years of Islamic rule shows that such pauses or retreats are merely adopted tactical moves in order to regain momentum to continue with their short and long term goals. In doing so, neither the domestic opposition nor the international pressures have had any effect whatsoever to either tame the clerical rulers or impose any change or fundamental reforms upon the Regime.

1.1. Research Questions:
This research report aims to provide the answers to the questions below. The overall objectives of the research are to focus the structure of power in Iran and describe the relations of power amongst the various tiers i.e. supreme leader, judiciary, executive and legislative authorities. The research will help the readers to know about the political system in Iran and how the complicated structure of power functions.
Given the fact that the Islamic regime has managed to resist and survive through such deep internal and external crises, many questions would trigger in the curious mind including, what type of political system governs the country? Who are the main actors of the power structure under the current institutional system? What are the extent of autonomy and functionality of the Supreme Leadership, Executive, Legislative and Judicial authorities within the power structure? What is the degree of communication and the measure of influence of these authorities amongst one another?  Which individual, faction or institution has the most share of the power? And in its entirety, who actually rules Iran?   


1.2. Methodology:
The term methodology has been used in different and even contradictory ways. Despite the differences, it is possible to view method as a demarcation criterion between scientific approaches to the creation of knowledge and non-scientific modes of exploration. There are numbers of qualitative research methods but because this research was totally based on the secondary data, desk study technique was found to be the appropriate approach for analyzing the structure of power within the Islamic regime. Through this process, I collected, studied and analyzed the data from various books, articles, journals and Internet resources about the structure of power and functioning of the political system in Iran. In addition, the constitution of the Islamic Regime was also reviewed in-depth and wherever necessary have been quoted in the text.
1.3. Challenges and Limitations:
Unfortunately, there has been little research carried out about such topics in the past resulting in the existence of a few literatures about this subject. The reasons may be non access of the outsiders to the internal sources of the system and strict rules of the country. Moreover, I wasn’t able to travel to Iran in order to collect the primary data and more relevant information, due to unsuitable circumstances. This research was faced with more difficulties, due to lack of transparency and accountability within this political system. Inevitably, I had to use the official websites of different institutions of the Islamic regime, In order to collect more information.     
However, this research focuses on the structure of power in the Islamic regime for two main reasons. First, such analysis explores which institution or institutions have the most proportion of power and hegemony within the Islamic regime. By this, the reader shall understand how much the Iranian people would be able to influence the process of decision making in this political system through their elected institutions such as the Executive or part of the Legislative authorities e.g. The Islamic Consultative Assembly.
Second, the Islamic regime is causing many tensions and provocations within the international community, especially in the strategic region of the Middle East. A deeper understanding about the Islamic regime’s structure of power and its strong and weak components, shall offer a better knowledge to other countries to adjust their foreign policies with this regime in an appropriate manner. This research is organized as follows: Chapter two gives brief information about the different factions, origins, schools of thought and their responsibilities within the Islamic regime. Chapter three discusses the structure of power, style of governance and the main components of this political system. It includes the roles, functionalities and relationship of the Executive, Judicial, Legislative and Supreme Leadership authorities. The final part is conclusion.
Chapter 2: Factionalism
2.1. The Political Factions:
Generally speaking, so far four main political factions have emerged within the Islamic regime. Each of these factions, during the past 33 years has seized control of different power leverages and it can be said that the entire political, economic, social and cultural affairs within the Iranian society have been monopolized by the members of these factions and their close relatives. It would be worthwhile to pay a brief attention to the origins, responsibilities and the school of thought of these factions. This can help the readers to understand the following sections in a better way.
2.2. The Conservatives:
This faction emerged in the beginning of the 1979 Islamic revolution. The members of this faction advocated private property rights, establishment and practices of Islamic jurisprudence in Iranian society. “Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei” the current supreme leader is one of the leading members of this faction.
The responsibilities of this faction in the Islamic Regime can be summarised as: The supreme leadership institution (Since 1989 until now), The control of the Guardian Council institution, majority holders in the Assembly of Experts, substantial proportion of the number of representatives in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (1992-2000 and since 2004 until now) (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).   
2.3. The (Former) Radicals or (Current) Reformists:
This faction like the Conservatives was formed in the beginning of the Islamic revolution. The members of this faction advocated some policies such as more government interventions in the socio-economic affairs, a classless society and its main foreign objective was to export the Islamic revolution beyond the national boundaries. In the early 1990s, this faction reorganised itself around new programmes including more liberal economic and social policies and later reintroduced itself as the Reformists. “Mir Hussein Musavi” (former prime minister 1981-1989) and “Hojjat-Al-Islam Seyed Mohammad Khatami” (former president 1997-2005) are amongst the well known members of this faction.
The responsibilities of this faction in the Islamic Regime can be summarised as: The control of the Executive Authority (1981-1989 and 1997-2005) and substantial holders of majority seats in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (1980-1992 and 2000-2004) (Selvik & Bjorvatn, 2007).
2.4. The Pragmatic Conservatives:
In 1989, the third faction, i.e. the so called Pragmatic Conservatives was emerged. In this year, the eight year long war with Iraq ended and the country was heavily damaged. This faction took the power under the leadership of “Hojjat-Al-Islam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani” (former president, 1989-1997). The main rhetoric and agenda of this faction was based on “Reconstruction”. In doing so, this faction transformed the war ridden and state controlled era into a free market economy along with more privatisation.
The responsibilities of this faction in the Islamic Regime can be summarised as: The head of the Assembly of Experts (Until 2011), the control of the Executive Authority (1989-1997), holders of substantial number of seats in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (1992-2000), the head of the Expediency Discernment Council (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).
2.5. The Neo - Conservatives:
Towards the end of “Khatami’s” second term in office as president (2001-2005), and following certain upheaval and transitions amongst the Conservatives circle, a new faction emerged on the Iranian political scene; the Neo-Conservatives. The founders of this new faction were mainly young members of the “Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps” (Sepah Pasdaran) and “Mobilisation of the Oppressed” (Basij) who radically opposed the Reformists and their policies and at the same time disapproved the clemency of the old guard. The Neo-Conservatives’ rhetoric was to return to the original values of the Islamic Revolution such as social Justice, imposing Islamic extremism morals and struggle against Imperialism. The current president “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” is one of the leading members of this faction.
The responsibilities of this faction in the Islamic Regime can be summarised as: the control of the Executive Authority (Since 2005 until now), holders of substantial number of seats in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Since 2004 until now) (Selvik & Bjorvatn, 2007).
As mentioned above, these factions have played important roles within the structure of the Islamic regime in the past 33 years and each one of them apparently has different political views and policies. These differences, in many instances, have resulted in creating a bone of contention between them, which continues to this date. However, a closer observation at the behaviour of these factions would reveal some issues. Firstly, the displacement of power from one faction to another has made no difference in the social context of the Iranian peoples’ everyday life and the policy of brutal repression on the political scene and widespread socio-economic havoc has just been changing hands. Secondly, irrespective of which faction has dominated the rule, the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic, which is marked by its hostility towards the western powers, expansionism and aggression in the Middle East and indefatigable efforts to accomplish nuclear capability, has remained unchanged.
Thirdly, despite all the feuds and hostilities amongst these factions, different internal uprisings and severe external constraints, imposed by international community, the Islamic regime rigidly and strongly continues to govern the country without any major challenge. The main reason behind the rigidity and imperviousness of this political system lies in the type of centrally controlled structure of power adopted by the whole system, which shall be analyzed in detail in the following sections.

Chapter 3: The Structure of Power
3.1. The Structure of Power within the Islamic Regime:
Undoubtedly, the Islamic Regime bears one of the most atrocious and complicated power structures in comparison with other present political systems in the world. This political system is designed in such a vigilant and resourceful manner which would prevent the penetration of any imposter, and for that matter, would avert any deviation from its original mindset. The fundamental and inherent building blocks of this regime are based on protective institutions and foundations. These institutions and foundations function in a complimentary mannerism, and at the same time, they are capable of running and conserving different sections of this political structure. The degree of the responsibilities, interconnection and dependency of these institutions and foundations with one another, has been interwoven in the most complex way during the past 33 years.
The combination of complexity along with close interdependency of these institutions has created a political bastion that the elimination of one or possibly more of its components, without the provision for a completely matched substitute has become totally impossible. The lack of any component without an appropriate matched substitute in this political system would inevitably cause certain dysfunctions which would consequently result in the collapse of the regime. The full control and the responsibility of holding together of this political system lie in the hands of the aforementioned institutions and foundations and their subsets. They are able and do extend the boundaries of their domination over the key areas and a variety of the political, economic, cultural, social and military aspects of the entire nation. In order to elaborate on this point, we shall need to have a closer look at the style of governance and the constituent parts of this political system. 
3.2. The Style of Governance and Dualism:
With reference to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution, the style of governance of the country is defined as “Islamic Republic”, under the leadership of the “Supreme Leader”. This means that the entire civil laws and regulations including penal, financial, economic, political, cultural and military affairs are based upon Islamic guidelines and correspond to the “Quran” or Islamic narratives (“Hadith”). The branch of Islam advocated by the ruling clergy in the Islamic Republic of Iran is that of “Shi’ite”, who believe in the return of their twelfth “Imam” (“Mahdi”) in order to establish the rule of Islam throughout the whole world. Until the emergence of “Mahdi”, the responsibility and leadership of the Moslem societies has to be carried out and ruled by the “Supreme Leader”. The jurisprudent should be chosen amongst the most knowledgeable and brave clerics, with unsurpassed managerial powers and qualities (Parliament, 2011).               
Based on this doctrine noted above, the amalgamation of principles of republicanism with ideological characteristic of this political system (Islam, “Shi’ite”) has become the first governing priority in the country since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Therefore, the Islamic Regime has begun to build its own institutions, in order to conquer all the politics, economics, social and cultural aspects of the society. As a consequence and gradually, various parallel institutions and foundations with similar responsibilities were emerged within the Islamic Regime, which in literary terms is known as dualism. Some examples of this dualism are the supreme leader versus the President, “The Revolutionary Guards Corps” versus the regular armed forces and “Jihad of Construction (Jahad-E-Sazandegi)” versus the Ministry of Agriculture. There are different points of view amongst the scholars with regards to this duality and its effect within the fabric of the Islamic Regime.
Wilfried Buchta believes that this duality within the Islamic Regime is as result of contentions and skirmishes between the factions within the Regime over power. However, he does not make any logical reference to the root causes behind the formation of the duplications. Buchta reckons that the original reason behind the dualities within the power structure of Islamic Regime lies in the low ranking status of “Ayatollah Khamenei” as a “Religious Emulation Reference” (Marja-E-Taghlid) amongst other claimant Ayatollahs. In Buchta’s opinion, in the aftermath of “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” death, many high ranking clergies did not approve of “Ayatollah Khamenei’s” leadership and hence, this led to the formation of hostilities and the division of power amongst different sections of the Regime e.g. the “Supreme Leader” versus the President and the Revolutionary Guards versus the regular army (Buchta, 2000).
Evidently, the Islamic Regime suffers a lot due to the varying levels of power struggle amongst its hierarchy and between different factions within its structure. Furthermore, a section of high ranking Ayatollahs disapprove of “Ayatollah Khamenei’s” position as the “Supreme Leader”. However, one should bear in mind that the establishment of these foundations took place at the outset of the establishment of the Islamic Republic, and during “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” leadership; in an era when “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” leadership could hardly be questioned or challenged by any other religious leader (as Buchta. W indicates to these issues in other parts of his book too). This brings us to the point that the formation of the dualities within the power structure of Islamic Regime, could not have possibly been due to the inferior ranking of “Ayatollah Khamenei’s” amongst other clerics; but a product since the very early days of the inception of this Regime.   
The pace of the events and the upheaval of 1979 revolution at the early days of post revolution Iran prevented the Islamic Regime to completely dismantle all the apparatus and foundations of the overthrown monarchy in order to fully establish itself in accordance with its ideological infrastructure. This initial instability and time restraint along with the lack of trust in the remaining organs of the deposed regime, initiated the urgent and much needed formation of various new alternative political, financial, military and cultural foundations and establishments. The aim for resorting to such move was twofold; Firstly, to neutralise any probable threats posed by the residue of the previous system, and secondly, to gradually replace and stabilise these foundations with their own trusted Islamic infrastructure. The coexistence of these two contrasting foundations, albeit at the early days of post revolution, led to a duality within the structure of the Islamic Regime.
So far, the Islamic rulers have succeeded to resolve certain parts of this dualism by amalgamating some of these dual institutions. One example of such amalgamation is that in 1990, “The Revolutionary Committees” and the police and gendarmerie were consolidated in one institution as “Discipline Force” (Nirooye Entezami). However, some dualities in the important fields of politics, economy, military and culture still remain intact; “The Revolutionary Guards Corps” versus the regular army and various religious foundations versus Ministry of Finance and Inland Revenue are some examples to mention (Buchta, 2000).
Generally speaking, these dual institutions can be divided into two main categories of elected and non-elected entities. The elected entities are those whose leaders or members will be elected by the people like the head of Executive Authority or members of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. The non-elected entities are those whose officials will be designated by the supreme leader, e.g. the Expediency Council or the Guardian Council institutions. The non-elected entities to some extent, have affected the structure of power within the Islamic Regime. Selvik & Bjorvatn point out an important and quite righteous statement about this issue. They express that:
“By making sure that politicians from different factions are appointed to different institutions, the Leader undermines challengers to his own predominant position and especially counter-balances the power of the system’s number two- the President” (Selvik & Bjorvatn, 2007, P. 2317).

Some questions arise from this statement of Selvik & Bjorvatn. What are these non-elected entities? What role do these entities play in the structure of power within the Islamic regime? In order to answer these questions, it would be essential to examine the Executive, Judicial, Legislative and Supreme leadership authorities of this political system independently. Through this analysis, the scope of power, capability and relationship of these authorities within the power structure of the Islamic Regime shall be illustrated further.
3.3. The Executive Authority:
Initially, the political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran was based on encompassing a prime minister as well as a president. During this era the presidential post was more of a formality rather than that of an official one; hence the Prime Minister was the head of the Executive Authority in practice. Following the death of “Ayatollah Khomeini” in 1989, amendments were made to the constitution; the form of governance was modified in such manner which granted excessive powers and authority to the newly appointed “Supreme Leader”. Consequently, one of the affected areas of the power structure within the political system was the permanent exclusion of the Prime Minister’s post and its dominion over the Executive Authority, and its assignment to that of the President’s instead. The main reason behind this was due to the on-going contentions between “Hojjatoleslam Khamenei” (The then President), and “Mir Husain Musavi” (The then Prime Minister) in the previous decade, when “Ayatollah Khomeini” was still alive. This change in the constitution was recommended by some Islamic Republic think tanks who believed that any future discords between the President and the Prime Minister would weaken the scope of the effectiveness and the efficiency of the state (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).
Expressly, it could be claimed that within the first decade of the rule of the Islamic Republic, the system of the governance in Iran was based on parliamentary government; whereby the system encompassed a President alongside a Prime Minister in tandem. During this Phase, the president would be elected in general elections by the people. However, the premiership would be decided by the direct voting system of the members of the “Islamic Consultative Assembly”, which would then lead to the formation of the Ministerial Cabinet by the Prime Minister. Hence, the Prime Minister would be the head of the Executive Authority. Due to the amendments made to the constitution after the death of “Ayatollah Khomeini”, the parliamentary form of governance in the Islamic Republic of Iran was transformed to that of presidential. With the advent of this new system of governance, the country’s president is elected via general elections by the people. The elected president would then select his Ministerial Cabinet and would seek the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” members’ vote of confidence for his cabinet of ministers (Mainwaring & Shugart, 1993).
According to the new constitution, the President, in contrast to the former decade, became empowered as the head of the Executive Authority. Should this change of governance have taken place in a democratic, or even semi-democratic domain, whereby free political parties would freely go about their political programmes and campaigns, and the people would have a real say in the state’s adopted policies, this could have somewhat made an impact in favour of paving the path for the democratic processes in Iran. However, due to the oddity of the structure of the political system in Iran, not only this change in the constitution did not make any tangible improvements, but due to the simultaneous additional changes in the constitution, the power structure became even more centralised (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).
According to the constitution, the president is the country’s highest formal authority who is elected in a general presidential election by the direct votes of the people. The term of the presidency is four years which can be extended into a maximum of second term in office if re-elected consecutively (Article 114, IRI Constitution). According to article 124 of IRI Constitution, the elected president would appoint a formal executive from amongst his advisors and spokespersons, in order to take the responsibility for the control, management and coordination of his cabinet of ministers. The President would then introduce his cabinet to the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” for their votes of confidence (Articles 87 and 133, IRI Constitution) (Parliament, 2011).

The State would resume its function once this process has been completed. As the head of the Executive Authority, the president is responsible to implement the country’s constitution and other duties such as preparing the country’s annual budget (Article 52, IRI Constitution). Any international agreements or contracts which would involve the State would be signed and endorsed by the President or one of his representatives, following the approval of the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” (Article 125, IRI Constitution). The president is the highest formal authority after the “Supreme Leader” (Article 113, IRI Constitution). Furthermore, the only authority who could scrutinise the President’s resignation with a view to approve or otherwise, is the “Supreme Leader”; without the “Supreme Leader’s” endorsement, the President must continue with his duties as expressed by the Constitution (Article 130, IRI Constitution) (Parliament, 2011).

With reference to what has been said, the Islamic Republic of Iran portrays a Republic form of ruling system whereby its President is elected through a public voting system, with the formation of his Cabinet to follow. Furthermore, it would appear that the elected President and his Cabinet are the officials who determine the country’s domestic and foreign policies.
The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran negates the above properties for its President and goes further to demonstrate that the role of the President in the Islamic Republic of Iran does not follow the same or similar prevalent republicanism in comparison to other common republican systems of governance whereby the president has the responsibility and the authority of the Executive power. For instance, in most prevalent political systems, the head of the Executive Authority is responsible to determine the country’s general policies, would be the chief commander of the armed forces and would have complete autonomy in selecting his entire Cabinet. This is not the case in Iran; as Buchta (2000) quite rightly points out. 
Nasr & Gheissari (2006) present the scope of limitations of the Executive Authority in the Islamic Republic somewhat differently, and try to score positive points and outcomes in favour of “Mohammad Khatami”, the former President of the Islamic Republic. “Nasr & Gheissari” state that:
The conservative leadership accepted the verdict of the election but moved quickly to limit Khatami's room to maneuver. He was given control of certain ministries but not others. Notably, the important ministries of oil, foreign affairs and intelligence remained outside of his full control. Similarly he had very limited authority over the armed forces and the judiciary” (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006, p. 136).

Undoubtedly, the “Supreme Leader” exerts his authority and dominance over important issues such as foreign affairs, Intelligence, National Security and massive revenues gained from the oil trade. However, “Nasr & Gheissari” give their readers the impression that the Conservative faction targeted “Khatami” on an ad-hoc basis within a specific period of time, in order to limit or diminish his executive power, i.e. when the Reformists won the presidential elections.  
The fact of the matter is that the constitution of the Islamic Republic determines such limitations for all presidents including the predecessors of “Khatami”. Article 110 clearly states the level of authority and the dominance of the “Supreme Leader” with regards to this matter. The Islamic Regime’s general policies, declaration of war and peace, mass mobilisation of the forces, the command of the armed forces, the selection of the head of Judicial Authority and even the dismissal of the country’s President, according to article 110, are amongst “Supreme Leaders” unlimited prerogatives. In addition, according to article 99, all presidential candidates must go through the scrutiny of the “Guardian Council” (Another subset of “Supreme Leadership” hierarchy) in order to qualify as “Suitable candidates”, and must be further approved by the “Supreme Leader” (Section 9, Article 110, IRI Constitution) in order to serve their first term (Parliament, 2011).

To summarise, although the presidential post of the Islamic Republic of Iran is determined by the Iranian people in a general presidential election, but in actual fact, the presidential candidates are the by-product of the filtering system implemented by the “Guardian Council”, approved by the “Supreme Leader” and prepared for voting by the Iranian people. In simple terms, the Executive Authority is a subset of the “Supreme Leadership” pyramid of power, which makes the elected president and his Ministerial Cabinet the caricatures of the real thing who are just powerless figureheads within the Islamic Regime in Iran.

3.4. The Judicial Authority (Non-Elected Institution):
This authority is the highest legal administration which is assumed to act independently in order to uphold the individual and social civil rights in line with the Islamic principles. Article 156 of the IRI Constitution explains the functionality of the Judicial Authority as:

“The judiciary is an independent power, the protector of the rights of the individual and society, responsible for the implementation of justice, and entrusted with the following duties: 1. investigating and passing judgement on grievances, violations of rights, and complaints; the resolution of litigation; the settling of disputes; and the taking of all necessary decisions and measures in probate matters as the law may determine; 2. restoring public rights and promoting justice and legitimate freedoms; 3. supervising the proper enforcement of laws; 4. uncovering crimes; prosecuting, punishing, and chastising criminals; and enacting the penalties and provisions of the Islamic penal code; and 5. taking suitable measures to prevent the occurrence of crime and to reform criminals” (Parliament, 2011).

Article 157 explains the process of selection and appointment of the Head of Judicial Authority. According to this article, following the scrutiny by the “Supreme Leader” with regards to the qualifying prerequisites, the selected head of the Judicial Authority who should be a virtuous “High ranking clergyman” (Mojtahed), with sound knowledge of judiciary affairs and high management skills, would be appointed as the head of Judicial Authority for a duration of five years. According to article 160, the Minister for Justice, who is proposed and nominated by the head of Judicial Authority to the President, has the responsibility of coordinating the functions between the Judicial, Executive and Legislative Authorities. Other powers of the head of the Judicial Authority include: Appointment of the head of the country’s Supreme Court and the Attorney General (Article 162, IRI Constitution), organising the “Court of Administrative Justice” (Article 173, IRI Constitution), Country’s Inspectorate Organisation (Article 174, IRI Constitution) and superintendency over the functioning of the State Broadcasting Media of Islamic Republic of Iran, “Seda Va Sima” (Article 175, IRI Constitution) (Parliament, 2011).  
Article 170 empowers the judicial judges to abstain from implementing those rules or regulations which may contradict Islamic principles, or may fall outside the scope of the Executive Authority’s powers. In such encounters, the judges have the means of petitioning the “Court of Administrative Justice” in order to void such rules or regulations. In the event of a Court Martial, the prosecution process and investigating the offences committed within the armed forces (Revolutionary Guards Corps, The army, The police) also falls within the jurisdiction of the Judicial Authority (Article 172, IRI Constitution). Perhaps one of the most important attributions of the Judicial Authority according to Section 2 of Article 91 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution is the power of appointment of six of the twelve members of the “Guardian Council”, subject to the approval by the “Majlis” (Parliament, 2011).

Although the Judicial Authority has many powers and authorities to investigate and implement the appropriate course of action within the social sphere, however, it cannot exercise its authority with regards to malfeasances committed by the clergymen. This would be the responsibility of another entity which functions independently from the Judicial Authority; namely, “The Clerical Select Court”. This could be considered as a blatant discriminatory policy within the judiciary apparatus of the Islamic rule, whereby as far as the law of the land is concerned, the treatment toward the clergy is isolated from those of other normal social classes.

3.4.1. The Clerical Select Court (Non-Elected Institution):
This court functions completely separately and independently from the Judicial Authority. The purpose for this entity is to investigate the offences committed by the clergymen. The Judicators and the select committee of this court are assigned by and only accountable to the ruling jurisprudent (“Supreme Leader”). The functionality of this court can be summarised as:
1-      Prevention of misconduct and iniquity in judicial matters.
2-      Guidance and briefing with regards to maintaining moral values.
3-      Investigating clergymen’s offences and dealing with cases related to the aims and objectives of this entity (Pajhoohe, 2011).
Nasr and Gheissari believe that this Court was established in 1997; during when “Khatami” was the president. In their reckoning, “Ayatollah Khamenei” and the conservative faction founded this court in 1997 and during “Khatami’s” presidency in order to confine and inhibit the advancement of the Reformist clerics within the Regime. They justify this assessment by the fact that as a result of tribunals held by the “Clerical Select Court”, some of the prominent reformist clerics such as “Abdollah Nouri”, “Kadivar” and “Yousef Eshkevari”, were convicted and sentenced accordingly. “Eshkevari” was even degraded, unfrocked and was even struck off the list of clericals (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).
This reference by Nasr & Gheissari with relation to the timing of the establishment of the “Clerical Select Court” is inaccurate. According to the Judicial Authority’s official website which also reflects “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” decrees and recommendations with regards to the establishment of such entity, the establishment of “Clerical Select Court” took place in 1980. “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” handwritten manuscripts explain the reasons and the responsibilities of this Court. These manuscripts also make reference to the nomination of “Hojjatoleslam Ali Razini” and “Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian” by “Khomeini’s” decree as the Clerical Judge and chief prosecutor of this new entity respectively (Judicial organization, 2011).
Wilfried Buchta also refers to the establishment of this entity during the lifetime of “Ayatollah Khomeini”. He rightly makes reference to “Mehdi Hashemi” (Brother of “Ayatollah Montazeri’s” son in law), and two other accomplices who were tried by the “Clerical Select Court” in relation to exposing the “Iran-Contra” affair and were sentenced to death in 1987. According to Buchta, the full control of this Court was taken up by “Ayatollah Khamenei” in 1990. “Khamenei”, according to “Buchta”, authorises this Court in 1990 to investigate crimes of following nature:
·           “Conspiracy against or defamation of the supreme leader by a cleric;
·           Any acts or behaviours by clerics that deviate from the Sharia; and
·           All local court cases in which one of the litigant parties is a cleric”
(Buchta, 2000, P. 97). 

The verdicts reached by this court are absolute and cannot be reviewed or plead against by any authority. There are ten subdivisions of this court in ten other cities, which has a total of 6000 employees who serve as security, administrative, investigation, inquisition, litigation personnel, and Clerical Judges. All the judges serving at this Court are graduates from the Clerical Institution of “Haghani School” which is placed in the holy city of “Quom”. This entity has its own exclusive prison compound whose staffs are specially selected from amongst the “Revolutionary Guard’s Corps” and members of the Ministry of Information and National Security. According to Buchta, since 1988, this Court has given the verdict of death by execution to 600 clerics. Amongst other verdicts, there are 2000 cases of degradation and unfrocking of the convicted clerics. The scope of the authority of this court extends to other cultural and religious institutions. This includes censorship, expropriation of unauthorised books, voiding of unauthorised religious seminars and the closure of religious institutions that are believed to have acted against the “Supreme Leader” or the Islamic Regime (Buchta, 2000).
The Judicial Authority of the Islamic Republic therefore, consists of two separate entities. Bearing in mind the scope of power of the two constituent parts of the Islamic Republic’s Judicial Authority, plus the fact that all the main and high ranking authorities at the head of these two entities are personally selected by the “Supreme Leader”, it would not be inappropriate to conclude that the full control of the country’s Judicial Authority is in the hands of the “Supreme Leader”. By means of resorting to these two entities, the “Supreme Leader” is empowered to suppress any opposition or defiance expressed by any institution or organisation including the Executive Authority, Legislative Authority, Armed Forces, or even from within the clergy (Figure 1).

 The Supreme Leader
 The Judicial Authority
The Clerical Select Court
 





Figure 1: The Judiciary System in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Parliament, 2011).


3.5. The Legislative Authority:
The entire process of country’s legal acts and legislations are prepared and commissioned by this authority. The Legislative Authority of the Islamic Regime is based on three constituent pillars:
1-     “The Islamic Consultative Assembly” (Majlis) (Elected Institution).
2-     “The Guardian Council” (Shoraye Negahban) (Non-Elected Institution).
3-     “The Expediency Discernment Council” (Majma-e Tashkhis-e Maslahat-e Nezam) (Non-Elected Institution).
Although the above mentioned entities have the collective and compound responsibility of introducing and passing of the laws adopted by the country, however, each entity has its own particular characteristic and properties, in terms of the scope of their functionality and authority, membership, and election.

3.5.1. The Islamic Consultative Assembly (“Majlis”):
The elected representatives of “Majlis” serve for a period of four years following a direct voting system in country’s General Elections (Articles 62 & 63, IRI Constitution). The total number of the parliamentary representatives of this assembly is 290 at the moment; which can increment by 20 every ten years in order to reflect a true representation in line with increase in rate of population, or any other factor deemed as necessary (Article 64, IRI Constitution). Some of the main responsibilities of this assembly can be summarised as:
·      “Endorsement of country’s annual budget prepared by the Government (Article 52, IRI Constitution).
·      Ratification and enactment of laws according to the framework lay by the IRI Constitution and based on Islamic principles (Articles 71 & 72, IRI Constitution).
·      Ratification of Legal Bills proposed by the Cabinet (Article 74, IRI Constitution).
·      Ratification and approval of conventions, protocols, agreements and international treaties (Article 77, IRI Constitution).
·      Awarding the vote of confidence to the Council of Ministers (Article 87, IRI Constitution).
·      Interpellation of the entire Council of Ministers or an individual Minister (Sec.1, Article 89, IRI Constitution)” (Parliament, 2011).

The “Majlis” also has the power to interpellate or otherwise ostracise the head of the Executive Authority, i.e. the country’s President (Sec.2, Article 89, IRI Constitution) (Parliament, 2011).
To the reader, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Legislative Authority projects an example of a very democratic system, as the members of “Majlis” are elected by people in a General Parliamentary Election, and the Constitution empowers the authority of “Majlis” so far as dismissing the country’s President should it be deemed as necessary. This notion however, is marred by a closer examination of the other two related entities (“The Guardian Council” and “Expediency Discernment Council”) which constitute the overall Legislative Authority within the Islamic Republic of Iran.
According to section 2 of Article 89 of IRI Constitution, the interpellation of the country’s President can be acted upon by a quorum of at least one third of the total member of “Majlis” representatives. Following the hearings, either in favour or against the President, a quorum of two thirds of the members would be required in order to cast a vote of no confidence against the President. Should the “Majlis” encounter this situation, the matter would be communicated to the “Supreme Leader” in order to implement Article 110 of the Constitution. In accordance with section 10 of Article 110, the “Supreme Leader” can remove the President; either by following the Supreme Court’s verdict against the President for violating his constitutional duties, or by a parliamentary vote of no confidence against the President on the basis of Article 89. It should be noted here, that although the members of the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” possess the power of removing the country’s President, however, this can only be achieved by the consent, confirmation and the will of the “Supreme Leader” (Parliament, 2011).
Additionally, in real terms, the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” is a subset of the “Guardian Council” according to Articles 93 and 94 of IRI Constitution which scrutinises the passing of all bills introduced by the “Majlis”. Without the scrutiny and acceptance of the “Guardian Council” of any legislation put forward by the “Majlis”, no law can be enforced nor can it be considered as credible. Article 93 of IRI Constitution states that:
“The Islamic Consultative Assembly does not hold any legal status if there is no Guardian Council in existence, except for the purpose of approving the credentials of its members and the election of the six jurists on the Guardian Council” (Parliament, 2011).
Article 94 of IRI Constitution states that:

“All legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly must be sent to the Guardian Council. The Guardian Council must review it within a maximum of ten days from its receipt with a view to ensuring its compatibility with the criteria of Islam and the Constitution. If it finds the legislation incompatible, it will return it to the Assembly for review. Otherwise the legislation will be deemed enforceable” (Parliament, 2011).

3.5.2. The Guardian Council (Non-Elected Institution) (“Shoraye Negahban”):
The Guardian Council” has its role as the Second “Majlis” and is the controlling body of the “Islamic Consultative Assembly”. This entity as a matter of fact, is one of the most powerful and authoritative establishments both within the legislative and electoral spheres. “The Guardian Council” is composed of 12 members who consist of six clerical jurisprudents and six jurists whose term would be for a period of six years (Article 92, IRI Constitution). The process of their selection is in such manner that the “Supreme Leader” would select six unbiased clerical jurisprudents that would be accomplished in the daily running matters of the country (Sec.1, Article 91, IRI Constitution). The six jurists; who are experts in various branches of law, are nominated by the Head of the Judicial Authority and elected by the members of the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” (Sec.2, Article 91, IRI Constitution) (Parliament, 2011).
The main responsibilities of “The Guardian Council” can be summarised as:
“1- Monitoring all legislations. 2- Interpretation of the Constitution. 3- Supervision over the country’s elections” (Guardian, 2011).
The Islamic Republic’s Constitution reveals the degree and scope of authority of “The Guardian Council” in more detail. According to Article 4 of the IRI Constitution, all rules and regulations related to penal, civil, economic, administrative, cultural, military, and political or any other implemented laws of the country, must be based upon Islamic codes of practice. Furthermore, the scrutiny of these laws collectively falls under the jurisdiction of “The Guardian Council”. Articles 93 and 94, as mentioned above, plus article 98, explicitly describe that the interpretation, adoption and implementation of all laws of the land must be endorsed and verified by “The Guardian Council”. No law is deemed as enforceable without the approval of the “The Guardian Council” (Parliament, 2011).
Apart from the powerful role of “The Guardian Council” within the legislative mechanism of the country, this entity also has another momentous role as the “Supervisory Body” over the country’s elections. Article 99 of the IRI Constitution states that:
“The Guardian Council has the responsibility of supervising the election of the “Assembly of Experts” for Leadership, the President of the Republic, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the direct resource to popular opinion and referenda” (Parliament, 2011).

Article 99 means that all nominated candidates for the “Assembly of Experts”, Presidential, “Islamic Consultative Assembly”, and “Islamic Shuras” (Councils) elections must initially pass the approval of “The Guardian Council” in order to qualify as suitable candidates in the elections. Additionally, the task of supervisory responsibility of all elections and referenda is also carried by “The Guardian Council” (Guardian, 2011).
Certain contentions and differences of opinion with regards to ratification and enactment of laws have existed between The “Islamic Consultative Assembly” and The Guardian Council” since the early days of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Some of the then heads of the Regime in 1983, namely; “Hojjatoleslam Khamenei” (President), “Mir Husain Musavi” (Prime Minister), “Hojjatoleslam Hashemi Rafsanjani” (Speaker of “Majlis”), “Ayatollah Musavi Ardabili” (Head of the “Supreme Court) and “Hojjatoleslam Seyed Ahmad Khomeini” expressed their concerns with regards to this matter in a letter to “Ayatollah Khomeini”. The “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” solution to end the disputes between these two entities was to introduce and establish the “Expediency Discernment Council” in 1987 (Expediency, 2011).

3.5.3. The Expediency Discernment Council (Non-Elected Institution) (“Majma-e Tashkhis-e Maslahat-e Nezam):
The “Expediency Discernment Council” is yet another powerful entity within the Islamic Regime. This Council consists of permanent and non-permanent members, who according to Article 112 of IRI Constitution, are selected personally by the “Supreme Leader” for a service term of five years. Initially, the main reason for the establishment of this Council was to resolve differences between the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” and The Guardian Council”. In 1988 however, other responsibilities were assigned to this Council as a result of revising the Constitution. The main duties and responsibilities of this Council can be summarised as:
1- To resolve and discharge the differences between “Majlis” and “The Guardian Council” (Article 112, IRI Constitution).
2- Consultancy with the “Supreme Leader” in matters raised by the “Supreme Leader” (Article 112, IRI Constitution).
3- In the event of death, withdrawal, or the dismissal of the “Supreme Leader”, the “Assembly of Experts” has the responsibility of nominating and electing the new ruling jurisprudent (“Supreme Leader”) within the shortest possible time. Until then, the responsibilities of the ruling jurisprudent would be collectively carried out by a council of leadership consisting of the President, the head of the Judicial Authority and one of the clerical jurisprudents of “The Guardian Council”. The “Expediency Discernment Council” is responsible entity to select the members of the council of leadership or veto and introduce an alternative member to this council if deemed as necessary (Article 111, IRI Constitution).
4- Constituent member of the “Revision of the Constitution Council”, whereby all the permanent members of the “Expediency Discernment Council” can and must take part when called upon during the process of revising the Constitution (Article 177, IRI Constitution) (Parliament, 2011).
With reference to a dossier published by the official website of “Expediency Discernment Council”, thirty five of the country’s most senior clerical and political figureheads were selected in 2006, as permanent and non-permanent members for this Council by “Ayatollah Khamenei”. The current chairperson of this Council is “Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani” and its Secretary General is “Mohsen Rezaee” (The former commander of the “Revolutionary Guards’ Corps”) (Expediency, 2011).
The entire Legislative Authority of the Islamic Regime is constructed around the three above mentioned entities.  From what has been shown so far, we can deduce that:
a- All the candidates for the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” elections must be fully compliant with the Islamic system of governance and ought to be devoted to the “Supreme Leader” both in theory and practice. “The Guardian Council” will ascertain this prerequisite and confirm their compliance.
b- Since the members of “The Guardian Council” itself are selected by the “Supreme Leader” and the Head of Judicial Authority who in turn is appointed by the “Supreme Leader”, it would inevitably place “The Guardian Council” as a non-elected entity at the full control of the “Supreme Leader”. This Council assumes unrestrained amount of power at “Supreme Leader’s” disposal; based on which the “Supreme Leader” would have the authority to veto any bill proposed by the “Islamic Consultative Assembly”, or indeed disqualify and eliminate any opposing candidates who may wish to step into any election campaign.
c- Should any contention between the “Islamic Consultative Assembly” and “The Guardian Council” remain unresolved, the “Supreme Leader” is able to intervene by resorting to the powerful non-elected “Expediency Discernment Council” entity in order to reach to a final conclusion, and implement the appropriate course of action.
d- Last but by no means the least, and most importantly, relates to the heterogeneous composition of the members of “Expediency Discernment Council”.
A brief glance at the names of some of the members of this entity reveals that this Council is composed of representatives from different factions within the Islamic Regime. For instance, “Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani” from the Pragmatic Conservatives, “Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati” from the Conservatives faction and “Mir Husain Musavi” from the Reformists faction (Expediency, 2011).
According to the media, following the controversial Presidential Elections of 2009 and the unsightly events thereafter, “Mir Husain Musavi” standing as one of the presidential candidates along with his wife were detained and put under house arrest (The Guardian, 2011). 

The curious mind would unavoidably want to know: Given the extensive powers of this entity in both Legislative Authority and Leadership criteria (In the event of death, withdrawal or dismissal of the “Supreme Leader”), plus the fact that the entire members of this Council are personally selected by the “Supreme Leader”, would “Ayatollah Khamenei”, the present “Supreme Leader”, select any individual (e.g. “Mir Husain Musavi”) from an antagonistic faction or with dissident mind who would compromise the integrity of the Islamic Regime or his power, as a member of this Council? The presence of different factions in this important and powerful Council, wouldn’t show a type of unanimity amongst the political élites in the Islamic Regime? The other important point which would confirm and demonstrate the unanimity of this Council, despite their political stance, is the common and long term economic relations amongst some of the members of this Council, who are apparently engaged in a rivalry dispute over power.

The “Islamic Open University” (Daneshgah-E-Azad) is one of the common economic enterprises with shared vested interest amongst some of the members of this Council. This private chain of universities in Iran was founded in 1983, with a start-up capital of $1000.00 circa (In comparison with current exchange rate), donated by “Ayatollah Khomeini”. Currently, there are over 1.5 million students studying in different branches of this university in Iran and worldwide. By resorting to governmental facilities and benefits (Such as making use of confiscated properties, state regulated currency exchange rate and tax exemption), this educational establishment has grown into a massive profit making enterprise. According to one of the Islamic Regime’s financial experts, the current wealth of this institution is estimated to be around $250.00 Billion. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to mention that individuals such as “Ayatollah Khamenei”, “Ayatollah Rafsanjani” and “Mir Husain Musavi” are all shareholders of this institution and are co-beneficiaries of this massive educational financial project, since 30 years ago. The heterogeneous composition of a powerful institution such as the “Expediency Discernment Council” and membership of rival factions with common economic interests within this authoritative establishment however, also reveals that the political rivalry amongst these factions cannot be serious and antagonistic as the Islamic Regime and media portray (Islamic Azad University, 2011).
The above analysis shows that the Legislative Authority of the Islamic Regime, as well as the Executive and the Judicial Authorities, are also under the complete control and scrutiny of the “Supreme Leader” (Figure 2).
The Supreme Leader
The Expediency Council
    (Non-Elected Entity)
The Guardian Council
  (Non-Elected Entity)
 The Islamic Assembly
      (Elected Entity)
 








Figure 2: The Legislative System in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Parliament, 2011).  
This leads us to a closer examination of the concept of Clerical Jurisprudence (“Supreme Leadership”) in order to analyse the degree and scope of authority and influence held by the “Supreme Leader” himself, in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

3.6. The Supreme Leadership Institution:
The concept of “Supreme Leadership” might be an unknown concept for many people, both in Iran and abroad. In order to fully appreciate this concept, and understand its significant position and powers within the “Shiite” school of thought in Islam and the Islamic Regime, it would be useful to have appropriate knowledge about the theory of “Supreme Leadership” (Clerical Jurisprudence).

3.6.1. The Theory of Supreme Leadership:
The “Supreme Leadership” (Clerical Jurisprudence) is interpreted as “Velayat-e Faghih”. The words “Velayat” (Guardianship) and “Faghih” (An Islamic leader who is fully acquainted with Islamic laws and regulations) have both historically appeared and discussed separately in Islamic narratives and books. High ranking Islamic leaders such as “Shahid Saani”, “Molla Mehdi Naraghi” and “Vahid Behbahani” were amongst the first prominent Islamic gurus who combined these two words and invented the phrase “Velayat-e Faghih” and introduced it to the “Shiite” branch of Islam. This phrase was later further consolidated and theorised by “Ayatollah Khomeini” and was adopted for the first time to be applied as a system of governance; The Islamic Republic of Iran is the first Islamic example to adopt this notion as a method of ruling power. Advocates of “Velayat-e Faghih” doctrine believe that since societies are formed by different people with varieties of interests and dispositions, conflict of interest and challenges amongst people would drive the society into chaos and disorder. Hence, the presence of a powerful and authoritative body to usher the society into order and security would be inevitable. According to this school of thought, a religious government under the leadership of the “Velayat-e Faghih” (“Supreme Leadership” or Clerical Jurisprudence) is the solution to this problem. This however, would not be limited to the establishment of law and order in the society; a religious government must also implement and enforce religious laws and arrange the lifestyle of its citizens in accordance with the teachings of Islam. In other words all the citizens’ affairs and their relations with one another must also be based upon and follow Islamic laws and code of practice (Supreme Leadership, 2011).

This would necessarily mean that the leader of such society must be of highest and unchallenged ranking with regards to religious matters. Furthermore, social matters and political affairs of the society such as distribution of power, the status of authoritative people, means of acquiring powerful positions and peoples’ position in handing over the responsibility to their representatives would mean that such leader must also be politically competent and endowed. Since such leader has the highest endorsements in both religious and social spheres, hence the term “Supreme Leader” (Supreme Leadership, 2011).  

Velayat-e Faghih” theorises that God leads humans and societies, via his prophets and Imams, towards felicity and prosperity both in this world and beyond. The Islamic “Shiite” doctrine believes that this task is fulfilled by “Imam Mahdi” who has not yet revealed or presented himself. Since the implementation and enforcement of Islamic laws amongst people is not subject to postponement, therefore, in the absence of “Imam Mahdi” and until his appearance, this responsibility is assigned to the next most competent living cleric, who would be the “Supreme Leader”. This cleric would necessarily possess all the features attributed to the prophet and Imams in the realms of governance and sovereignty (Supreme Leadership, 2011).
Based on this theory, the “Supreme Leader” assumes itself as the ultimate coordinator and guideline of social and individuals’ private matters, which should comply with divine commands and practices. The “Supreme Leader” assumes this level of authority since he portrays himself as the second in command of the absent “Imam Mahdi” and therefore, the true divine representative on earth, who has been awarded infinite authority by the ultimate creator; God! The legitimacy of this authority will remain authorised, intact and unchallenged until the phenomenon of appearance of “Imam Mahdi” has been materialised(Supreme Leadership, 2011).

3.6.2. The Supreme Leadership in Iran:
Based on the “Supreme Leadership’s” theory noted above, in 1979, “Ayatollah Khomeini” established the ruling model of Islamic Republic in the country and the Iranian political elites declared him as the “Supreme Leader”. Following “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” death in 1989, the “Assembly of Experts” chaired by “Hojjatoleslam Hashemi Rafsanjani” selected “Hojjatoleslam Ali Khamenei” (Not even an “Ayatollah”) as the new “Supreme Leader”. There was a period of time that many higher ranking clergymen did exist in Iran, who in comparison to “Ali Khamenei” could have easily qualified as the righteous successor to “Ayatollah Khomeini”. However, the new “Supreme Leader” (“Ali Khamenei”) did not have the clerical status of a “Religious Emulation Reference” (Marja-E-Taghlid). In addition to this inadequacy, “Hojjatoleslam Ali Khamenei” did not possess the same Clero-Political clout and popularity amongst the people as “Ayatollah Khomeini” did (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).

This flaw in the status of “Ali Khamenei” was and has been considered as a serious weakness point in his position as the “Supreme Leader”. Different scholars including Buchta (2000), Nasr & Gheissari (2006) and Afshari (2011) indicate this weakness to some extend.
Afshari argues that the “Ali Khamenei’s” lack of proper theological knowledge undermined the whole theory of supreme Leadership amongst some clergymen. He states:

“This offered dissident religious figures another reason to renew their objection to the concept of Velayat-e Fagih. A number of Grand Ayatollahs could only view Khomeini’s successor with barely disguised disdain, as he was a middle-rank cleric lacking the highest religious credentials” (Afshari, 2011, P. 17, 18).

Buchta names this theological weakness as Khamenei’s theological Achilles heel and explores this issue in a broader perspective. He argues that Khamenei’s lack of theological qualifications can cause a hidden crisis of religious legitimacy. Such crisis would create a threat for the system. Buchta goes even further and states:

“For example, there remains the real danger that a Shi’i grand ayatollah from outside the Iranian sphere of power and perhaps hostile to the Iranian regime could issue fatwas on religious-social matters that run counter to Khamene’i’s political line, but which he cannot annul. If this should happen, it could bring the whole system on the verge of breakdown” (Buchta, 2000, P. 53).

Some questions arise from these statements. Can a higher ranking religious figure in Iran pose any threat to the position of the current Supreme Leader? Can a decreed fatwa counter Khamenei’s political line so to create a serious problem for the whole system, as Buchta argues? In order to answer these questions and elaborate more on our discussion, it would be essential to examine the scope of power, responsibility and capability of the Supreme Leader. Following the “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” death in 1989, the leaders of the Islamic Regime modified some parts of the constitutional law in favour of the new Supreme Leader. The aim of these changes was to legally compensate and minimize the weaknesses of the Supreme Leader as far as possible (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).

These set of changes resulted in excessive empowerment of the “Supreme Leader” as well as converting the ruling model of the country from parliamentary to that of presidential by eliminating the Prime Ministerial post. One of the implemented changes in the constitution which emboldened the executive authority of the “Supreme Leader” was by authorising him to select half of the members of the “Guardian Council”. The second important amendment to “Supreme Leader’s” increased authority was to pass on the responsibility of selecting the armed forces commanders, which was previously at the discretion of the head of Executive Authority. The third emboldening change in favour of the “Supreme Leader” was the assignment of the control and management of all religious financial institutions and foundations (Nasr & Gheissari, 2006).

Article 110 of IRI Constitution defines the duties and powers of the “Supreme Leader” as:
“1. Delineation of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran after consultation with “Expediency Discernment Council. 2. Supervision over the proper execution of the general policies of the system. 3. Issuing decrees for national referenda. 4. Assuming supreme command of the armed forces. 5. Declaration of war and peace, and the mobilization of the armed forces. 6. Appointment, dismissal, and acceptance of resignation of:
a. The fuqaha' on the Guardian Council.
b. The supreme judicial authority of the country.
c. The head of the radio and television network of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
d. The chief of the joint staff.
e. The chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
f. The supreme commanders of the armed forces.
  1. Resolving differences between the three wings of the armed forces and regulation of their relations.
  2. Resolving the problems which cannot be solved by conventional methods, through the “Expediency Discernment Council”.
  3. Signing the decree formalizing the election of the President of the Republic by the people. The suitability of candidates for the Presidency of the Republic, with respect to the qualifications specified in the Constitution, must be confirmed before elections take place by the Guardian Council; and, in the case of the first term [of the Presidency], by the Leadership.
  4. Dismissal of the' President of the Republic, with due regard for the interests of the country, after the Supreme Court holds him guilty of the violation of his constitutional duties, or after a vote of the Islamic Consultative Assembly testifying to his incompetence on the basis of Article 89 of the Constitution.
  5. Pardoning or reducing the sentences of convicts, within the framework of Islamic criteria, on a recommendation [to that effect] from the Head of judicial power. The Leader may delegate part of his duties and powers to another person” (Parliament, 2011).
All the above mentioned illustrate the level of authority that the constitutional law grants to the Supreme Leader. It would also be prudent to briefly examine some of the power leverages of the “Supreme Leader” in the fields of financial, propaganda, military and surveillance. The collective assessment of the information available, would present the reader with the immeasurable and yet factual powers of the “Supreme Leader” within the power structure of the Islamic Regime in Iran.

3.6.3. The Foundations (Bonyads)(Financial & Propaganda Tools):
There are three types of foundations in Iran including public, private and charitable-Islamic.    Some of these foundations such as “Astan Quds Razavi” (Shrine of Imam “Reza”, the eighth Shiite Imam in “Mashhad”), were established prior to the formation of the Islamic Republic rule in Iran. Since the establishment of the Islamic Regime, there has been a substantial increase in the number of this type of institutions. Some of the most important of such foundations are: “Bonyad Mostazafeen” (Deprived Persons Foundation), “Bonyad Shahid” (Martyrs Foundation), “Bonyad 15 Khordad” (15 Khordad Foundation), etc (Buchta, 2000).

 Most of these foundations are tax exempt and in most cases are only accountable personally to the “Supreme Leader”. Despite the fact, that 58% of the state budget is allocated to these foundations; the Executive Authority of Islamic Regime has no control or authority over most of these foundations by any means. These foundations are engaged in various ventures such as industry, agriculture, commerce, import and export, financial agencies, structural projects, transport, airlines, tourism and last but not least, political and religious propaganda and promotions. Due to the scope of the operation and the enormity of financial resources at their disposal, these foundations are in fact one of the strong pillars of the Supreme Leadership institution in finance, propaganda and suppression of the opposition both internally and outside Iran (Buchta, 2000).
One of the most powerful and influential foundations since the advent of the Islamic Regime, is the “Deprived Persons Foundation” (“Bonyad Mostazafaan”). The control and production of 20% of country’s textile, 40% of country’s soft drinks and 2/3 of the entire glass productions industries is monopolised by this foundation. In addition to the above, this foundation is one of the most important and substantial shareholding enterprises in tile, clay, chemical, tire and food production industries. The scope of the investments of this foundation in recent years has also expanded into the country’s oil market industry which involves different projects such as consultancy, drillings and oil pipelines (Selvik & Bjorvatn, 2007).

The “Supreme Leader” also selects the Friday prayers’ Imams and the head of state radio and television. The Friday Prayers (On a weekly basis) and the state media (On a daily basis) play an instrumental role in keeping up open and regular channels of communications between the “Supreme Leader” and his advocates in order to assert and propagate his views and policies amongst his followers. By resorting to these two main propaganda platforms, the “Supreme Leader” is also enabled to mobilise his forces and at the same time suppress any opposition against him (Buchta, 2000).

By adding few hundred thousands of annual pilgrims of Mecca, which is organised by the “Hadj & Oghaf” (Mecca Pilgrimage and Devotion) organisation managed by “Supreme Leadership” Institution, thousands of holy shrines and millions of donation boxes placed all over Iran which make an astronomical source of income, we can deduce the huge magnitude of “Supreme Leadership” Institution’s wealth and propaganda apparatus’s strength in promoting the interests of this phenomenon. With such organisation and wealth behind it, no other institution or organisation would be able to raise any competition, nor will they be able to pose a challenge against it.

3.6.4. The Office of the Supreme Leader:
This institution is one of the many apparatuses of power at the disposal of the “Supreme Leader”. It has 2000 members who are mainly clerics from “Hojjatoleslam” (Authority of Islam) ranking. All the members are selected by the “Supreme Leader” and are granted independent authority in its entirety to represent the Leader in all the foundations and institutions, as well as inside sensitive Ministries and provincial levels throughout the country. This institution acts as the “Eyes and Ears” of the “Supreme Leader” within different operating departments of the Islamic Regime and is tasked to mark the “Supreme Leader’s” influence in as widely within the governmental departments as possible. It would not be inconceivable to claim that the degree of authority of members of this office exceeds that of the ministers, as this office has the power to intervene in any policy drafted by the State (Buchta, 2000).

The extent of the engagement of this institution and the influence of the “Supreme Leader” is not limited to the internal affairs of the country, nor is it inhibited to the geographical boundaries of Iran. The representatives of the “Supreme Leader” acting on behalf of the “Office” and other similar institutions such as “Sazman Hadj & Oghaf” (Mecca Pilgrimage and Devotion Organisation), “Sazman Tablighat Eslami” (Islamic Promotion organisation), or Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, actuate and promote the will of the “Supreme Leader” under the banner of cultural propagation programme via the Islamic Republic Embassies throughout the world. While operating totally independent from the Foreign Office, these representatives possess diplomatic immunity and they fulfil their task of supervising the functions of the Embassies and Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, in tandem with imposing and carrying out the “Supreme Leader’s” orders and policies outside Iran (Buchta, 2000).

3.6.5. The Ministry of Intelligence and National Security” (“VAVAK”):
As stated in the IRI Constitution, the President has the responsibility of appointing the Minister for this department and on the face of it; this appointment does not involve the “Supreme Leader’s” arbitration. However, the events that took place in April 2011, proved the point that the appointment or dismissal of Ministers in sensitive Ministries must be scrutinised and affirmed by the “Supreme Leader”. It follows that “Mahmud Ahmadinejad” (The current President) decided to replace “Hojjatoleslam Heydar Moslehi” the Minister for “Intelligence and National Security”. However, “Ayatollah Khamenei” disagreed with this decision. Consequently, protesting this intervention by the “Supreme Leader”, “Ahmadinejad” boycotted attending the Presidential Office for eight days, which led to further rumours that he might even resign from his post. Ultimately, “Ahmadinejad” conceded after eight days and returned to his office and “Hojjatoleslam Heydar Moslehi” was reinstated in his post and continued as the Minister for “Intelligence and National Security” (Washington Post, 2011).

This organisation is one of the most notorious, complex and abstruse contingents within the suppressive elements of the Islamic Regime. The “Intelligence and National Security” Ministry consists of fifteen branches employing 30,000 personnel engaged in various departments within this organisation. It could be said that this institution is one of the most complex and enigmatic intelligence services in the Middle East. The Islamic Regime’s intelligence organisation has many affiliated organisations both in Iran and abroad. “Security and Intelligence branch of Revolutionary Guards’ Corps”, “Quds Corps”, “The Political Ideology Office”, “Security and Intelligence branch of the Armed Forces” (Including Category 2 and 8), “Presidential Institution”, “Security and Intelligence branch of the Police”, “Foreign Relations’ Deputies” and the operating “Security Offices” (“Herasat”) of various educational and governmental offices are tasked to counter and subdue any dissent against the Regime both internally and outside Iran. The coordination of the activities of all the subsidiary elements of this infamous organism is managed by the “Intelligence and National Security” Ministry which involves the exchange of information and intelligence with internal and foreign agents as well as clandestine operations in relation with any internal opposition movements or covert foreign activities (Buchta, 2000).

This Ministry, with its Minister who must necessarily be from a high ranking cleric, is totally an autonomous entity and is not accountable to any authority; even the Judicial Authority. It’s worth noting that all the high ranking personnel of this Ministry are graduates from the religious school of “Haghani” situated in the holy city of “Quom”. This school has the capacity for 400 students and is headed by “Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati” who is the Secretary General of the “Guardian Council”. The students of this school are kept totally isolated from any other educational establishment and cannot take part in any cross training or exchange scheme with any other religious schools. “Haghani School” is an exclusive one-stop clerical educational establishment from the start to graduation. The judges of “Clerical Select Court” are also graduates from this school. As the Minister of this Ministry is selected by the “Supreme Leader”, it could be claimed that this entity is one of the most effective provisions at his disposal in order to confront and eliminate any opposition to his rule (Buchta, 2000).
3.6.6. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and “Basij” (“Mass Mobilisation”):
This militant organisation was established by “Ayatollah Khomeini’s” direct decree shortly after the downfall of the Shah’s Regime in 1979. The main objective for the formation of this entity was to counter and neutralise any possible Coup d’état by the forces loyal to the deposed regime. The chief commander of the “Revolutionary Guards” is appointed by the “Supreme Leader” (Article 110, IRI Constitution).  The main duties and responsibilities of the “Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Corps” are defined as protecting the Islamic revolution and safeguarding all the achievements and accomplishments of the revolution (Article 150, IRI Constitution) (Parliament, 2011).  
In the early days of the revolution, the task of the “Revolutionary Guards” was to suppress the opposition and safeguard the newly established Islamic Regime. However, the scope of their utilisation as a suppressive militant organisation changed profoundly when Iran-Iraq war broke out in September 1980. The “Revolutionary Guards” established their own dedicated Ministry in 1982 which empowered this entity beyond a grass roots militant organisation status. Following the arms embargo imposed on Iran by the USA in the same year, the “Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Corps established its own heavy weapons manufacturing plants with the aid of the then Soviet Union, North Korea and China (Buchta, 2000).
All the Islamic Regime’s sensitive and covert warfare production projects such as Ballistic Missile projects and nuclear programmes are now carried out under the direct control and management of the “Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Corps”. This establishment has 120,000 members who are engaged in ground, air force and naval armed forces. In addition, the “Quds Corps” functions as a special task force wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Corps and its size is estimated to be around 1000 troops and special agents which are mainly engaged in extraterritorial assignments for the purpose of “Exporting” the Islamic revolution. This unit has also been tasked and has been successful to carry out terrorist operations against Iranian and foreign dissidents both in Iran and abroad (Buchta, 2000).  
The extraterritorial operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Corps” began in 1982 by helping found the “Hezbollah” terrorist organisation in Lebanon. Since then, “The Corps” has been providing the region’s Shiite extremist militant groups and organisation with finance, weapons and military training as well as logistics facilities. These groups are supported in different countries particularly in the Middle East (Kepel, 2002). 
One of the most important sister organisations of “The Corps” is the paramilitary organisation of “Basij (Mass Mobilisation). “Basij” has 90,000 trained and armed personnel and functions under the direct control and supervision of “The Corps”. The main task of “Basij” is to crush and suppress any opposition rallies, demonstrations or movements in the country (Buchta, 2000).
The scope and extent of “The Corps” activities and engagements are not restricted to military or warfare operations. Since the end of the war with Iraq, “The Corps” has increasingly expanded its boundaries into different aspects and spheres of country’s affairs such as politics, finance and economy, social and cultural areas. The current President, “Mahmud Ahmadinejad”, and some of his cabinet members and advisors are all former members of “The Corps”. In the economy sectors, “The Corps” is engaged in a massive multitude of ventures and projects. Some of the economic and industrial activities of “The Corps” and its huge subsidiaries are in: Road construction, dam construction, pipe line installations, oil and gas industries, telephone and communications, internet, chip and pin cards, electronic industries and research and development projects. “The Corps” has its own dedicated shipping docks, ports and quays which facilitate a huge and substantial uncontrolled export, import and smuggling operations plus illicit trades of many goods and commodities (Selvik & Bjorvatn, 2007).
By adding the Police Force and the Army, whose heads of operations and the elite staff are personally selected and engaged by the “Supreme Leader” to the above (Article 110, IRI Constitution), we can represent the power structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran by a pyramid of power with the “Supreme Leader” placed at the highest point of it (Figure 3).

     Supreme Leader
  MOIS, IRGC, Basij                     IR Police, Army IS
Officials(Non-Elected)
 The Expediency Council
  The Guardian Council
        (Non-Elected)
    The Judiciary System
 The Clerical Select Court
           (Non-Elected)
   The Legislative System
The Islamic Assembly
   Supreme Leader’s
 Office (Non-Elected)
   Iranian Nation
Figure 3: The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

MOIS: Ministry of Intelligence and National Security.

IRGC: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

IR Police: Islamic Republic Police.

Army IS: Army Intelligence Service.

 





As illustrated above, the overall formation and arrangement of these institutions and foundations and their complex interrelations with one another form a pyramid of power whose pinnacle belongs to the “Supreme Leader”. The “Supreme Leadership Institution” is the absolute controlling power of this type of political system by resorting to these institutions and foundations, which in turn utilise all the means and tools at their disposal to oversee the country’s variety of political, economic, cultural and military affairs.

At this point, it would be worthwhile to turn our attention to the two questions posed in the beginning of this section. The first question was: Can a higher ranking religious figure in Iran pose any threat to the position of current Supreme Leader? Based on what was explained in this and the previous sections, the answer is negative. All details in this research indicate the fact that the Supreme Leader by all means is the absolute power in this political system. Within the realms of such system, anyone with any degree of popularity or ideological mindset, who has tried to criticize the absolute power of the Supreme Leader, however peaceful or in absolute social manner, has been punished severely by the state. If the state is threatened in a serious manner, the offender would be doomed to fail by means of maximum suppression and ultimately physical elimination. The grand “Ayatollah Montazeri” is one such example; who criticized the Supreme Leader and consequently went under house arrest until the last day of his life (Afshari, 2011).   

The second question was: Can a decreed fatwa counter Khameni’s political line create a serious problem for the whole system, as Buchta argues? The answer to this question is also negative, because Islam has no central authority unlike other religions; for example the Catholicism. This characteristic has caused many disagreements about different issues amongst high ranking ayatollahs in the past and it is not considered as a new phenomenon. In the event of such happening, it could weaken the legitimacy and popularity of the Current “Supreme Leader” to some degree, but due to his absolute power, it would not cause the collapse of the whole system (Esposito, 2010).             

After all, the curious mind would ask the following questions: What would happen to this political system if the “Supreme Leader” resigns from his position or when he dies? Or furthermore, is there any superior institution within this political system, which would be able to challenge or dismiss the “Supreme Leader”?
The answers to these questions lie in the presence of another authority within this establishment which is known as the “Assembly of Expert”. This entity consists of eighty-six representatives (all clerics), who serve for a period of eight years following a direct voting system in the country’s General Election. One of the main and important tasks of this entity is to elect the new “Supreme Leader”. In the event of death or withdrawal of the “Supreme Leader”, this Assembly has the responsibility of nominating and electing the new ruling jurisprudent (“Supreme Leader”) within the shortest possible time. Furthermore, this Assembly is the only entity which can dismiss the “Supreme Leader” in cases such as: if it becomes obvious that he cannot fulfil his duty or the “Supreme Leader” loses some of his qualifications. In such events, the “Assembly of Experts” has to nominate and elect the most prominent cleric who is highly qualified in terms of Islamic regulations, political and social issues as the new “Supreme Leader”. According to Article 107 of IRI Constitution, in the absence of such a person, the Assembly will elect one of its own members and declare him as the new “Supreme Leader (Parliament, 2011).   
Regarding this issue, is there any chance that this Assembly would use its power to dismiss the current “Supreme Leader” and change the course of this political system toward a positive direction by electing a moderate cleric as the new “Supreme Leader”? The possibility for such happening is either nil, or in the best possible case very small. Because, as mentioned in the previous sections,(based on the Article 99 IRI Constitution), all nominated candidates including the members of the “Assembly of Experts” must initially pass the approval of the Guardian Council” in order to qualify as suitable candidates. From this, it can be concluded that the “Guardian Council” scrutinises and filters out any “Outsiders” or those candidates who have slightest signs of apathy towards the concept of “Supreme Leadership” from taking seats in the “Assembly of Experts”. Hypothetically, a moderate cleric would pass the filter of the “Guardian Council” and tries to impose some reform within this political system as the new “Supreme Leader”. In this case, the new “Supreme Leader” will face strong resistance from some other powerful entities such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Basij, the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, the Expediency Discernment Council or some extremist members of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. Therefore, it can be said that this entity is also under the full supervision and control of the “Supreme Leader” and such event would not happen in this political system (Parliament, 2011).     

Conclusion:
During the past 33 years, regrettably, some divisions of the Iranian as well as foreign intelligentsia including political activists, scholars, writers and artists in different occasions have reached the wrong impression and conclusion that eliminating some of the elements in this ruling system e.g. the “Supreme Leadership” or the “Guardian Council” institutions, would reform the Islamic Regime toward a more conventionally accepted system of governance. I refer such thoughts to the Article 177 of the IRI Constitution. This article states that the Islamic essence of this ruling power and the element of the “Supreme Leadership” are the vital and constituent parts of this Regime which are neither amendable, nor will they be allowed to be eliminated from the Constitution. The elimination of the “Guardian Council” institution is also a utopia, due to the significant roles of this entity in the legislative process, engagement in the elections, approval of the candidates and its responsibilities on the amendments of the Constitution (Parliament, 2011).   

However, in this research i explored the structure of power in the Islamic republic of Iran. By using the Islamic regime’s constitutional law and some other references, i examined the four main pillars of the “Supreme Leadership”, Executive, Judicial and Legislative authorities along with some of their most important subsets. The outcome proves that the combination of the constitutional law along with ideological characteristic of this regime has provided tremendous power and authority for the “Supreme Leadership” institution in different aspects and at the same time has created two main categories of elected and non-elected entities in different parts of this political system e.g. the Executive and Legislative authorities.

The “Supreme Leader” by relying on his absolute power, appoints close and trusty allies or members of the diverse factions to different non-elected institutions. In this way, he shares some limited power with others and he holds the balance of power and at the same time controls the activities of the elected institutions such as Executive authority or other possible competitors within this political system. As a result, the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative authorities in this regime are not autonomous and independent in decision making, but rather they are subset institutions under the full control and hegemony of the “Supreme Leadership” institution. In closing, it should be stressed that the Islamic Regime is a theocratic totalitarian political system which the crucial political, economic, military, social and cultural leverages of the country is under the full control of the strongest faction i.e. the Conservative faction and Iran is ruled by a leading member of this faction known as the Supreme Leader. Based on this type of political structure so far, the Islamic Regime has managed to resist and survive through the deepest of both internal and external crises. 
Future perspective:
Based on three main reasons, the probability that some reformists similar to Gorbachev of the former USSR would lead this political system towards a total collapse is very low and almost impossible; Firstly, the complicated type of power structure in this political system would not allow any individual or group to divert the main course of this Regime toward any type of reform (As explained in this research). Secondly, the ideological characteristic of this Regime would oblige its loyal proponents to fulfil their divine duty and fully obey the decrees and orders of some high ranking clerics within this political system including the Supreme Leader. Thirdly and importantly, this is due to the controlled scale of contention amongst different factions in this political system. Despite all the feuds and hostilities amongst them, the experience of the past 33 years has shown that the leading members of these factions are smart enough to contain their differences when it becomes critical to the well being of the whole system. Otherwise, they fully understand that in such events, they could all lose everything. Based on these reasons, it can also be concluded that the idea that this Regime will leave the power peacefully to the Iranian people is nothing more than a utopia and an unrealistic statement.   
In the absence of a democratic, modern and pervasive alternative, this Regime will remain in the power and by using the educational system and different incentives would continue to foster its own new extreme religious, loyal and expert members. Day by day, the new members will enter in to the structure of this Regime and as a result some of the old members will be marginalized. This marginalization will leave the old members with two main options including: 1- Acceptance and enjoying the new mode of life or 2- Limited resistance and hopelessly joining the so called wave of reformists, in order to recapture some of their previous authority and position. However, it will come a threshold moment that the majority of Iranian people will get fed up of this theocratic totalitarian regime. Some issues including the extreme repression, harsh Islamization, mismanagement, nepotism, corruption, lack of equal opportunity, unemployment, increasing rates of horizontal and vertical inequalities along with severe poverty will enforce the majority of Iranian people to revolt against this Regime in a final battle without any fear. In the likelihood of such event, the Iranian intelligentsia should be prepared to influence and lead the course of revolt towards democratization and modernization of the country. Otherwise, in the first instance, the country would tumble in a grisly bloodbath made of the collaborators and sympathisers of the Islamic Regime and later could escalate into a long civil war between different secessionist groups and war lords as a result of the power vacuum and the lack of central authority. Such chaos in Iran along with the future re-empowering of the Taliban in Afghanistan and shaky government in Iraq will cause instability and major problems in the strategic region of the Middle East for some years ahead.          

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