Gary Sick shines a spotlight on the Revolutionary Guards as the central force behind the electoral takeover - and even the Supreme Leader himself:

Over the 20 years that Ayatollah Khamenei has been the rahbar, or leader, he has allied himself ever more closely with the Revolutionary Guardsto such an extent that it is no longer apparent to me who is leading and who is following. The Revolutionary Guards have been granted extraordinary influence over all functions of the Islamic republicmilitary, political, economic, and even Islamic. Technically, they take their orders from the leader, but has he ever dared to contradict them? On the contrary, he seems always to court them by granting them ever-greater influence and responsibilities. ... They have gone on to acquire an active and pervasive presence at all levels of the political structure, particularly under President Ahmadinejad, who has appointed his fellow guardsmen to positions throughout the bureaucracy.

The economic role of the Revolutionary Guards has been much remarked on in recent years. The Guards themselves and companies run by the Guards have won major contracts in every corner of the economy, from airport construction to telecommunications to auto manufacturing. They have also allied themselves with some of the most conservative clerics, who view the revolutionary government not as an alliance of Islam and the people but as divinely ordained rule by a philosopher king who is to be regarded as absolute in his judgmentspolitical as well as theological. These elements combine to form an impenetrable core that arrogates to itself all authority in the Islamic republic.

-- CB

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