How Powerful Is Iran's Supreme Leader? | NowThis World

It’s no secret that the Islamic Republic of Iran has a complicated and...

let’s call it ‘volatile,’ relationship with the U. S.

But this isn’t anything new.

After escalating tensions with Iran in May 2018

by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear deal,

President Trump did express a willingness

to meet with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

[TRUMP]: I believe in meeting. I would certainly meet with Iran, if they wanted to meet.

An offer Rouhani seemed to be open to, saying quote:

But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,

was not interested at all:

And in Iran,

has the final word.

Which got us thinking,

just how much power does the supreme leader of Iran actually have?

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a key player in the Middle East.

And whether it’s the war in Syria and Yemen,

or its nuclear deal with western powers.

The Persian country always seems to be right in the center of controversy.

And while the country has elected political offices

like a presidency and legislative body --

a lot of power belongs to one man, the country’s Supreme Leader.

And his powers are far reaching.

When it comes to politics,

the Supreme Leader has direct or indirect power

over the executive and legislative bodies of government

through un-elected councils that he controls.

Essentially, he is the most influential political authority

and serves as the head of state.

So, while the country does have a president,

that position does not wield as much influence as say

an American president, for example.

And the same goes for Iran’s legislative body.

[TALEBLU] For every elected position in the government

whether it's the position of presidents or members of parliament,

the body they call the Majilis,

there are unelected or supervisory positions that kind of

actually have the final say when it comes to matters of law

and key matters of the state.

[HOST] For example, the Guardian Council,

which is an independent, unelected body,

has the power to veto legislation parliament passes,

if it deems the laws unconstitutional or against their interpretation of Islamic law.

The guardian council consists of six theologians appointed by the Supreme Leader,

and six jurists who are appointed by the judiciary and approved by parliament.

It can also bar candidates from running for political office.

The Supreme Leader also wields the most influence over the country’s military.

He not only serves as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces,

but also as the head the country’s intelligence services.

Meaning, he alone has the authority to declare war, or end it.

He also controls the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,

which is tasked with preserving and defending

the principles of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

[TALEBLU] Chiefs of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

can report directly to the Supreme Leader.

The Supreme Leader can directly bypass the Minister of Defense,

directly bypass the president...

And in fact task heads of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with missions.

[HOST]: The IRGC is divided into two parts --

a domestic wing,

and a foreign wing, called the Quds Forces.

[TALEBLU] The IRGC Quds force takes both

revolutionary ideology and hard power and projects abroad….

The IRGC is really one of the chief sources of mischief

in the region and is the one that is really the connective

glue between Iran and terrorist groups.

[HOST] The U.S. State Dept. classifies Iran a state sponsor of terrorism,

in part due to the IRGC’s actions.

When it comes to the country’s economy,

the Supreme Leader’s influence is more indirect than direct, according to Taleblu.

Meaning, his speeches or statements are interpreted

by legislators and the president -- who implement policies.

But of course, the Guardian Council is always there

to strike down policies that might veer too far from the Supreme Leader’s vision.

But Iran wasn’t always run like this.

Iran was ruled by monarchs for thousands of years, known as Shahs.

The most recent monarch was Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi,

who seized power in 1921 after a coup.

The Pahlavi dynasty was a largely secular,

pro-western, and backed by the United States.

The rulers were also extremely authoritarian

and became increasingly unpopular among some Iranians.

So in 1979, Islamist, leftists, students, and guerrilla groups

came together to protest the Shah’s rule over Iran.

That dissatisfaction culminated in a revolution that ousted the monarchy.

One person who was instrumental in the revolution was

Ruhollah Khomeini, a Shia religious leader who spent

15 years in exile for his opposition to the Shahs.

[TALEBLU] You saw millions of Iranians begin to look to Khomeini

as kind of this umbrella like figure who would lead the revolutionary

charge against the monarchy against the Pahlavi monarchy.

[HOST] And after the monarchy fell in 1979,

Khomeini returned to Iran.

Then in December of that year,

The Islamic Republic of Iran was born and Khomeini

was the first person to become the country's Supreme Leader.

Khomeini died 10 years after leading the revolution.

And Ali Khamenei, took his place.

He still serves in the role today.

And the title supreme leader continues to be

the most powerful position in Iran 40 year after the revolution.