The Power Behind a Voice: Understanding Who Really Leads Iran

Ali Khamenei has been the supreme leader of Ir...
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By Robert Suski
Staff Writer

Since his election to the presidency in Iran back in 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has become somewhat of a household name here in the States. People have wanted to learn about this charismatic man who cries for the destruction of Israel while claiming that Iran’s nuclear expansion is for peace only, seeming to ignore the logic, appearing on Larry King, to once again deny the Holocaust ever occurred and to bash both the United States and Western ideals and interests while at the UN. Yet people may want to learn that Mahmoud, for all his charisma and rhetoric, is actually just a mouth piece when it actually comes to Iranian politics. The real leader of Iran, the one who can actually make the real decisions at whim, is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei represents in some way the misunderstandings of our own understandings of Iran. To get a basic understanding of how Khamenei rules Iran, think of Iran as a reverse version of a Constitutional Monarchy like Britain and Japan. In those countries while there is some sort of Monarch  be it Queen Elizabeth II or Emperor Akihito, yet the monarchy is more of a figure head, a symbol of the nation while a government with a constitution actually runs the country. Iran is like this but in reverse to where there is a president and a constitution, but it is  Supreme Leader Khamenei who is in control over the President and government.

This doesn’t mean to just cast off Ahmadinejad, he does hold a significant position of power and does represent the face of Iran but he only does so, as long as he does it in the interests of the Supreme Leader who could cast aside Ahmadeinejad at whim. But Ahmadinejad has proven his “loyalty” to Khamenei. He is seen as a fundamentalist, a conservative and a revolutionary, which is what Khamenei was looking for when Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005; however, make no mistake. Ahmadinejad is primarily the finger who pulls the trigger. It is Khamenei who gives the order to fire.

So how is it that Grand Ayatollah Khamenei is the real holder of power in Iran? Well, it starts with Iran being an Islamic Republic. Because of this, there are amendments within the Constitution of Iran that give authority to a political and religious leader who can appoint councils who can then oversee elections. This actually takes away from Iran’s right to call itself a republic and creates more of a monarchy or sultanate where one person makes the decisions. However, jobs held by appointment don’t really hold any authority or power. One of the big ways that Khamenei has held power and prevented reformist is the use of a pledge in Iranian elections where candidates must pledge commitment to the Iranian Constitution, Islam, Khamenei and the late Grand Ayatollah Khomenei. Candidates who are found not to be committed to this pledge, through their political affiliations or the actions of their party, can be disqualified and banned from running. In this method, Khamenei can effectively control elections, not by rigging them or through spreading fear in the voters, but by simply disqualifying the candidates, which he has done so. Another reason also includes another part of Iran that isn’t easily understood–the Revolutionary Guard.

The Revolutionary Guard is not to be confused with Iran’s traditional military, but they have taken steps to be able to rival the Iran’s military with their own air, ground and naval forces, along with the Basij, a civilian based military force that is used in law enforcement. The Revolutionary Guard was created under Ayatollah Khomeini, as a force loyal to the Ayatollah during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 but has grown in both size and power. Khamenei has extended the powers of the Revolutionary Guard to reach Iran’s own political wing. The reason for this, Khamenei needs the Revolutionary Guard and The Guard needs him. The Revolutionary Guard gives Khamenei his authority and security, and he extends their reach of authority.

So while we may watch the news with Ahmadinejad giving speeches, practically taunting nations at time, we must remember that he is just primarily a figure head, a mouth piece. The real authority behind the voice isn’t giving speeches directed towards the West but giving sermons to parishioners and students.

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