June 19th, 2009
12:27 PM ET

Iran power structure explained

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Constitution: A hybrid of democracy, religion

The Islamic Revolution is the name given to the Iranian revolution of 1979, when the ruling US-supported monarchy was overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was forced into exile.

The country held a national referendum to become an Islamic republic and approve a new constitution- a hybrid of democracy and unelected religious leadership. It appointed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, the supreme leader of the country.

Before he died in 1989, he made it known that he wanted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to succeed him.

Supreme leader: Iran’s de facto ruler

Iran’s supreme leader has the final say in all important matters of the country, such as ties with foreign nations and Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

He appoints the Guardian Council, the country’s election authority. He also appoints key posts in the intelligence services and the armed forces, including the powerful Revolutionary Guard. Additionally, he confirms the president’s election.

In theory, the supreme leader is appointed by a body of clerics whom voters elect. But in practice, this body – the Assembly of Experts – has answered to the supreme leader.

Khamenei, 70, was appointed supreme leader for life in 1989.

Guardian Council: Theological veto power

The unelected Guardian Council is the second most influential body in Iranian politics. It consists of six theologians whom the supreme leader picks and six jurists nominated by the judiciary and approved by Iran’s parliament.

Read more about Iran’s Guardian Council, President, and Revolutionary Guard….

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Maryam

    today is the today that our nation united together , support eachother and fight for their freedom. We Iranians suffered for many years. Some of us left our country and be citizins to other countrys. Fight for our identity and be succesful with the society.


    June 19, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  2. Karen


    Ronald Reagan to the people of Poland, " Stand up and you will have a friend in America"

    Apparently Obama is waiting for something? Does anybody know what the hell Obama is doing?

    This is a chance for America and Iran to have better relations if they throw out this guy.

    June 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  3. angie

    anderson thank you for Iran 101 ! that gives a great deal of help understanding where they stand or if they willl survive this revolution i hope!....

    June 19, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  4. Travis

    On his inauguration day, back in 1961, John F. Kennedy told the world in no uncertain terms that he planned to fight for liberty:
    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty

    June 19, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  5. Michael C. McHugh

    A Supreme Leader who is not elected and cannot be removed from office is just another name for an absolute monarch, dictator or Fuhrer. We should never assume that fascist, Stalinist or other totalitarian regimes are monolithic, however, since history shows there are always competing factions and power centers within the ruling party and the elite. That was true even in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, and it is true in Iran and North Korea today.

    June 19, 2009 at 1:30 pm |