[ analysis ] An important question that those who follow Iran's political developments keep asking is, Who is the ultimate power in Iran, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei and the clerics around him, or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps? Given the complexities of Iran's political system and power hierarchy, the question is not easy to answer, but over the past few years, particularly since the rigged presidential election of June 2009, much evidence has surfaced that provides insight into the ongoing power struggle, not between the Green Movement and the hardliners, but between the Guards and the clerics who accept Khamenei as the legitimate Faghih, the Islamic jurist recognized as Supreme Leader.
To address the question of who is the ultimate power, we need to first understand the power base of each side. The fact is that, unlike his predecessor as Supreme Leader -- Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- Khamenei has never had his own independent base of popular support. He did not belong to Khomeini's inner circle, nor was he an original member of the Islamic Revolutionary Council that Khomeini formed in January 1979 to prepare for the transition from the monarchic rule of the Pahlavi dynasty to an Islamic republic. He was brought into the council only later and given a relatively junior position, deputy minister of defense.
When Khamenei was Iran's president in the 1980s, he clashed frequently with Khomeini, particularly over the choice of Mir Hossein Mousavi as ... >>>
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