After the Election Iran's Growing Societal Chasm

Thousands of Iranians took to the streets in Tehran to protest the results of Friday's presidential election. The opposition may abhor re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is also a target -- the result of a growing split in Iranian society.


The success of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was never predicated on his authority as a religious scholar. There are a number of Shiite clerics who are superior to him in the pecking order. Charisma is also not a characteristic frequently associated with Iran's religious leader.

Rather, Khamenei's power stems largely from his skills as a strategist. Since his election as the almost untouchable leader of the Islamic republic in 1989, Khamenei has proven remarkably adept at courting his political opponents, thereby avoiding open conflict. Few pursued consensus as ardu