Amid claims that the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is trying to "drive a wedge" between the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian people, we suggest that the picture is far more complicated than this simple split.
First, we break down the power groups in the Islamic Republic and try to answer the simple question: Who rules Iran? Hillary Clinton this week said that "Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship", a claim rebuffed by Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki. We take a look at the power relationships that inform Iranian politics.
Second, we look at the composition of Iranian society. In the wake of recent demonstrations, many articles in the western press have referred to "the Iranian people" and "Iranian society". Here we identify the heterogeneous groups among the 74 million people who inhabit Iran and the socio-economic situations in which they live.
The future of Iran, from the reform movement to the country's nuclear programme, will be played out in relationships between the power and the people. The international community would do well to take these relationships into account.