The economic role of the Revolutionary Guards has been much remarked on in recent years. The Guards themselves and companies run by the Guards have won major contracts in every corner of the economy, from airport construction to telecommunications to auto manufacturing. They have also allied themselves with some of the most conservative clerics, who view the revolutionary government not as an alliance of Islam and the people but as divinely ordained rule by a philosopher king who is to be regarded as absolute in his judgments—political as well as theological.

These elements combine to form an impenetrable core that arrogates to itself all authority in the Islamic Republic. Needless to say, it also provides tangible benefits to very specific groups: the leader himself, who is thus promoted to a position not simply as first among equals but as the equivalent of an absolute monarch; the top leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, whose profitable dominance of all aspects of the government’s operations is guaranteed; and the conservative politically minded clergy, who want a true theocracy with no meddling by those who are not properly anointed. The objective, quite simply, was to remove the “republic” from the Islamic Republic.

This is a formula for the kind of a militarized and nationalist corporate state under a single controlling ideology that is not dissimilar to fascist rule in an earlier day.