Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Iran: Who Rules Iran? the Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Iran: Who Rules Iran? the Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic

Article excerpt

Who Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic, by Wilfried Buchta. Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2000. xv + 207 pages. Appends. to p. 223. Sources to p. 230. Index to p. 239. $19.95 paper.

Reviewed by Mark Gasiorowski

Who Rules Iran? gives an excellent overview of the institutional structure and political processes that animate contemporary politics in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Scholars, policymakers, and casual observers focusing on Iran will find it an invaluable reference source on Iranian politics today.

The book is divided into three loosely related sections. The first provides a detailed portrait of the political institutions that comprise Iran's Islamic state and the factions vying for power in Iran today. Although much of this material will be familiar to close observers of Iran, the author has drawn together extensive information on these topics from a variety of sources, providing the most comprehensive account now publicly available. Especially useful are a series of tables and organizational charts that detail the inner workings of institutions such as the Supreme Leader's office and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The author also gives a good characterization of the four main factions in Iran today: the traditional right, the modern right, the Islamic left, and the new left.

The second section gives an overview of the movements that oppose the Islamic Republic in its current form, including both the non-violent "semi-opposition" located inside Iran and the more-militant exile opposition movements. The semi-opposition consists of lay Islamic organizations, such as the Iranian Freedom Movement and the student-based Office for the Consolidation of Unity, and clerical opposition figures, including Grand Ayatollah Husayn `Ali Montazari and "quietist" clerics such as Grand Ayatollahs Hasan Tabataba'i-Qomi, `Ali Sistani, Sadeq Ruhani, and Mirza Hasan Ha'eri Ehqaqi. The author's account of the latter figures and their "cold war" with Supreme Leader `Ali Khamenei is especially informative, as is his description of the Special Clerical Court. In covering the exile opposition, the author rightly pays little attention to the many monarchist, nationalist, and leftist opposition groups based in Europe, which have little significance today. …

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