There are three main types of these institutions:
- Economical institutions, like the Mostazafan Foundation of Islamic Revolution and Astan Quds Razavi Charity Foundation
- Political and legal institutions, for example, the Expediency Discernment Council and the Guardian Council
- Cultural institutions i.e. the Islamic Publicity Coordination Council or the Al-Mustafa International University (MIU)
The political and legal institutions are designed to make it easier for the Supreme Leader to intervene in the government without looking like he is interfering.
For instance, when the Guardian Council disqualified thousands of candidates for the parliamentary elections last month in order to stack the parliament with people who would die for Ali Khamenei or when the Expediency Discernment Council continually blocked the anti-money laundering and terrorism financing bills, which results in Iran being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force.
The cultural and religious foundations are designed solely to legitimize the regime with Iran and spread its ideology abroad. You can see this in the following examples:
- the Council of Supervision on State Media monitors state-run media outlets and has the power to censor and punish any anti-regime content
- Al-Mustafa International University is in charge of foreign seminaries that teach the mullahs’ fundamentalist ideology
- the Islamic Publicity Coordination Council, which creates overt and covert corruption in various institutions under the cover of creating an Islamic structure
Overall, their job is to suppress protests, spy on dissidents, and do whatever is necessary to keep the regime in power.
One of the biggest issues with these institutions is that they are immune from tax, something that has been a subject of conflict between the Supreme Leader and the government across the past 40 years.
However, another ongoing issue is that these institutions infringe on the government’s authority. Essentially, this parallel power slows down the economy, creates political tensions, and ensures fights between opposing factions on the hunt for wealth.
The hunt for wealth can be seen in the fact that the finances for the Supreme Leader’s institutions in the proposed 2020 budget were increased, despite a massive decline in the Iranian economy, while government programs were cut. This shows, much like the election rigging, the Supreme Leader is desperate to stay in power and believes this is the way.