Political observers and global media view the Iranian elections as a struggle between a reformist stream – and its purported representative Hassan Rohani – and an extremist or conservative stream – and its representatives, the losing candidates Jalili, Velayati, Ghalibaf, and Rezaei.
In our assessment, the 2013 Iranian elections are a reflection of another struggle, the years-long power struggle between Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and long-time rival, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is a founding member of the regime. Khamenei is continuing his attempts to cement his status as the sole and undisputed leader, and relying on senior officials of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and ayatollahs loyal to him; Rafsanjani, in a move challenging Khamenei’s leadership, personally submitted his candidacy for president for the first time since his March 2011 removal from the Assembly of Experts by Khamenei. Rafsanjani, on his part, relies on the bazzar circles – Iran’s biggest merchants – as well as on traditional ayatollahs close to him and associates who belong to his political camp now being rebuilt: Mehdi Karroubi, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and Mohammad Khatami.
the Iranian presidential election and its outcome are a reflection of the years-long struggle between Rafsanjani and his camp and Khamenei and his, with the former representing the only real challenge to the latter. The struggle of the reformist circles, such as those represented by former preside Mohammad Khatami, or of extremist-messianic circles, such as those represented by outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are purely secondary; at this time they remain on the margins of the Iranian political system and are irrelevant to the real power struggle going on in the highest echelons of the Iranian regime.