The debate over velayat-e faqih has reemerged as the central issue in Iran. Today, even as the Revolutionary Guard–the Praetorian Guard founded by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 to defend the clerical regime–is asserting its control over the streets of Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei’s impatience in handling the election may ultimately cost the regime its legitimacy.A central figure in the debate over velayat-e faqih will be the leading protégé of Ayatollah Khoi, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Iranian cleric who is demonstrating the principals of his mentor in his patient oversight of civil society and the emerging democracy in Iraq. For Iranians in the streets, as well as clerics in the holy city of Qom, Sistani is among the most revered religious figures, and a cleric of greater authority and stature than Ali Khamenei himself.The irony is that none of the leading actors the Iranian drama, Mousavi, Karroubi, Rafsanjani, Larijani or Khatami have identified themselves with Sistani or opposition to the existing order of clerical dominion over civil society. They are each products of the existing system. And yet the principle of velayat-e faqih is what is at stake and will emerge as the issue at hand.