Skip to main content

Who Rules Iran?

The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic

By Wilfried Buchta

Who governs the Islamic Republic of Iran? Who is a “reformer”? Who is a “hardliner”? What do those terms really mean? These questions have emerged as the central enigmas of Iranian politics since the victory of reformist candidate Mohammad Khatami in Iran’s presidential elections in May 1997.

Successive electoral victories by Khatami and his political allies have raised expectations about the prospects for Iran’s reform movement. But in a political system with myriad and overlapping centers of power, capturing the presidency and the parliament may not suffice. Deep policy differences among the various factions that constitute the “reform” movement, as well as the violent proclivities of its conservative “hardline” adversaries, may frustrate efforts to bring about peaceful change to Iran’s political system and even spur a violent backlash by opponents. Clearly, the success of the reform movement—and the evolution of a more benign Iran less out of tune with U.S. interests—is by no means assured.

Who Rules Iran? analyzes the formal and informal power structures in the Islamic Republic and assesses both the future of the reform movement and the prospects for peaceful change in Iran. As U.S. policymakers begin their third decade of trying to avoid potential pitfalls and seize possible opportunities in formulating policy toward the Islamic Republic, this book will serve as an essential “guide to the perplexed.”

Related Books

Get daily updates from Brookings