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Iran's Conservatives Consolidate Power

International treaties, he said, do not prevent nuclear proliferation. After India conducted a nuclear test, the United States imposed sanctions, only to lift them and deepen ties when U.S. interests shifted. "Such a situation urges us to have a nuclear bomb," Shariatmadari said.

At the same time, he said, the production of a bomb would not be accepted under Islamic belief, in part because such a weapon does not distinguish between an enemy and innocent civilians, and also because it is not an effective deterrent. "If all countries have this technology, then the world will be in chaos," he said.


Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, Iran's supreme leader, led prayers on Nov. 14 to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. (Vahid Salemi -- AP)

This faction generally opposes renewing ties with the United States. Despite smaller numbers, its adherents are disproportionately powerful because they are highly vocal and are backed by vigilante groups such as Ansar Hezbollah.

• The new right, or neoconservatives, represent the most influential political faction. They have the largest presence in the new parliament, the judiciary and the powerful Guardian Council, a body of 12 unelected clerics that can veto new laws and political candidates.

They include leading candidates for Iran's presidency, such as Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister, and Ali Larijani, the chief of state broadcasting. Both are close to Khamenei.

The neoconservative platform mixes religious ideology with aspects of modernity. "Conservatism means conserving the letter and spirit of the constitution," said Mohammed Javad Larijani, an analyst and brother of the presidential contender.

This camp emphasizes Islamic thought, competent government and the private sector. "Jobs should be created by increasing production. We shouldn't create jobs by making government fatter than it is," he added.

This faction also developed a reluctant consensus on the deal with the Europeans to suspend uranium enrichment, analysts said. Its terms for reengaging with the United States, however, are tough.

• The pragmatic conservatives, once the most prominent faction, include former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and parties such as the Moderation and Development Party and the Servants of Construction. They are not bound by a rigid ideology, analysts said.

"They want to open up the economy, work within the established world order and culturally they're more relaxed," said Nasser Hadian, a political scientist at Tehran University.

• The traditional conservatives are represented by the Shiite clergy, many of whom live in the holy city of Qom. Many tend to be less political, and are often secluded and focused more on Islamic culture. This faction also includes many bazaar merchants.

Although the largest group, it is now the least active in politics, analysts said.


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