Since Iran’s autocratic shah fell in 1979, the question “Who runs Iran?” has stumped Western analysts. “Who doesn’t?” may be easier to grasp, reports the Los Angeles Times. Iran’s government has morphed into a free-for-all that includes the Shiite Muslim clergy, an entrenched bureaucracy, and an array of elites who wage subtle battles for influence.
Even Ali Khamenei, regarded in Iran as God’s representative on Earth, has limited power. Explains one analyst: "It is not a democracy or an absolute totalitarian regime; nor is it a communist system or monarchy or dictatorship. It is a mixture." Khamenei forms the center of the government, but "the system was designed to not let anyone be in total control," says a Western diplomat.