News / Middle East

How Iran's Government Works

Iran's system of government, known as the Islamic Republic, is an autocratic council/committee based system, in which councils and committees made up of religious elders, overseen by a council chosen by the Supreme Leader, give advice, counsel, and overall direction to the traditional branches of government and various government functions.

The graphic is explained in greater detail below.

Supreme Leader

  • Selected by Assembly of Experts for a life term
  • Sets Iran's domestic and foreign policies (including nuclear program)
  • Commands Iran's armed forces (including Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps), appoints/fires top military officials, declares war and peace
  • Makes final decision about eligible presidential candidates, election results and cabinet posts of defense, foreign affairs, information, culture/Islamic guidance
  • Appoints/fires heads of judiciary and state broadcasting

  • Guardian Council

  • Comprises 12 members who serve 6 year terms: 6 must be clerics, 6 must be jurists
  • Supreme Leader appoints 6 members, parliament appoints 6 members
  • Approves/rejects legislation passed by parliament
  • Approves/rejects candidates for president, parliament and elections

  • Parliament

  • Proposes, passes legislation for approval by Guardian Council
  • Consists of 290 members; membership to be increased to 310 for March 2012 election
  • Main coalitions include conservatives and reformists
  • May choose to impeach president
  • Approves/fires Cabinet ministers through confidence votes
  • Approves 6 out of 12 guardian council members recommended by Supreme Leader
  • Approves budget submitted by president

  • Assembly of Experts

  • Comprises 86 Islamic scholars elected by the public, screened for piety by Guardian Council
  • Selects Supreme Leader
  • Members serve 8-year terms; meet once every six months to review Supreme Leader's activities
  • In theory, can remove Supreme Leader in cases of incapacitation or corruption, though this is very unlikely

  • Expediency Council

  • Advises Supreme Leader on policy, seeks to resolve deadlocks between lawmakers and Guardian Council
  • Chaired by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
  • Comprises 35 members: 9 permanent, 26 ad hoc appointed by Supreme Leader
  • Permanent members include president, judiciary chief, speaker of parliament, and six clerical members of Guardian Council

  • President

  • Presidential candidates are vetted through councils, but ultimately the Supreme Leader will choose the final two candidates
  • Performs administrative role, rather than executive role as in other countries
  • Selects cabinet members, implements policies set by Supreme Leader and laws approved by parliament
  • Serves 4-year term, limited to two consecutive terms
  • If re-elected, can run for a third term after sitting one out
  • Proposes budget

  • Cabinet

  • Led by president
  • Assists president in implementing policies set by Supreme Leader and laws passed by parliament
  • Ministers appointed after winning approval in parliamentary confidence votes

  • National Security Council

  • Led by president
  • Implements national security policies set by Supreme Leader
  • Sets broad definitions of national security offenses

  • Cultural Revolution Council

  • Led by president
  • Sets Islamic principles for all educational organizations
  • Sets Islamic rules for permissible Internet content and printed materials

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