In This Review

Who Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic
Who Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic
By Wilfried Buchta
239 pp, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000

An invaluable book for anyone who wants to know who's who in Islamic Iran, sort out the various governing institutions, look up Iranian election results, learn about the various opposition groups inside Iran and beyond, and more. At the same time, the book is more than just a handy reference tool. It is also a very readable study of modern Iran that assesses "Iran's maze of power centers," the Iranian opposition, and finally the ongoing power struggle from 1997 to 2000 between moderates and fundamentalists. Buchta is especially good when presenting the many vested interests intent on stifling liberalization efforts. These include the paramilitary Basij, the Revolutionary Guard, and the many foundations (bonyads) that operate as autonomous sources of patronage by dispensing economic fiefdoms that lie beyond governmental control. The author's sobering analysis suggests that President Mohammad Khatami and a majority in the Majlis (parliament) may not prevail. Referring to Islamic Iran's first president-who was ousted and forced to flee the country in 1981 -- the conclusion asks, "Is Bani-Sadr's past Khatami's future?"