By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
The Iranian regime has been deeply divided ever since the disputed 2008 elections and the rise of the Green Movement. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used to be Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s protégé. The two are now clearly at odds.
When I was in Iran in the fall of 2011, one could clearly sense that there were two rival centers of power with Khamenei's clearly being the more powerful one.
The result of the external pressure - sanctions, rhetoric against Iran, and threats of military strikes - has been to shift power to the hardliners. You can see Ahmadinejad’s power has weakened. It’s weird to call Ahmadinejad the moderate but in this context he is. Khamenei is far less willing to strike any deals with the West. Ahmadinejad, in contrast, has wanted to be the man who delivered some kind of negotiated settlement to Iran’s problems.
Today, Ahmadinejad is weak and getting weaker. Ayatollah Khamenei is strong and getting stronger. The people who have been most empowered the past few years have been the Revolutionary Guard - the military. Iran is in the process of morphing from a theocracy to a military dictatorship. It’s not clear what impact this will have on foreign policy - but it is an interesting consequence of all the external pressure on Iran.