Iran analysis from Abdo, Akbari, and Alem

Geneive Abdo, director of the Iran program at the Century Foundation (and its website, offers an outstanding review of President Ahmadinejad’s collapsing status at home. The article, “Ahmadinejad’s Impotence,” offers nothing new if you’ve been following Iran for the last few months. However, Abdo connects the dots with great effect, so much so that the article succeeds in conveying the cumulative weight of all these developments. It’s nearly unanimous now among Iran-watchers that Ahmadinejad’s political career is over. So too is the political future of his closest confidants as many conservative personalities conspire to crowd him out.

Reza Akbari, a research associate at and fellow George Washington University grad student, posted another valuable article today–this one on the diversity of goals, rhetoric, and groups that constitute the conservative establishment mentioned above (see: “Posturing of Political Parties Indicates Fragmentation among Conservatives“). At the very least, Akbari’s article is worth saving for now and referencing again later, as these groups negotiate the future of Iran and upcoming elections.

Interested in clerics and elections in Iran? Frontline’s PBS Tehran Bureau posted an interview yesterday titled “Clerics Plummet in Parliament,” with Yasmin Alem, an international development specialist who focuses on Iran’s electoral system. Most important are Alem’s conclusions regarding the power of clerics in spite of their lack of representation in parliament, which has declined steadily since the heady days of the immediate post-revolutionary period:

Does the [downward] trend [of clerical representation] in parliament reflect clerical influence in other spheres of power?

No. Clerics are still at the crux of all the three branches of government. The office of the supreme leader constantly trumps the prerogatives of the executive branch. The Guardian Council, which is a twelve-member body comprised of six clerics, dwarfs the parliament. The head of the judiciary, an appointee of the supreme leader, is selected from among the clergy.

The Assembly of Experts, responsible for supervising the conditions and comportment of the Leader, is an elite clerical body. Clerics retain control over other levers of power. By custom, the minister of intelligence is a cleric. Since its inception the Expediency Council’s chairmanship has been occupied by clerics. The current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, was the council’s first chairman. Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani succeeded him and has served in this position since 1989.

Beyond their sphere of influence in political institutions, clerics have considerable representation in the Revolutionary Guards. Ali Saeedi is the representative of the supreme leader in the Revolutionary Guards. Hossein Taeb heads the intelligence bureau of the Revolutionary Guards and Mojtaba Zolnoor, until recently, served as the deputy representative of the leader in the Revolutionary Guards.


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