Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the 1979 revolution leader, envisioned the Islamic republic as a dictatorship ruled by elite clerics. Some of those leading clerics and senior figures in the Revolutionary Guards are now moving away from the country's president.
Vali Nasr, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, writes in Foreign Policy magazine that Ahmadinejad and his inner circle in the wake of the victory over reformists in 2009 view Iran as a genuine Islamic state and believe "the state should take over the role of the clergy."
Ahmadinejad overcame a challenge from a reformist movement to secure a contested victory in 2009 elections.
A source close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps told al-Arabiya in May that Supreme Leader Khamenei ordered officials to get rid of supporters of Ahmadinejad, "especially in the circle of the senior officials."
"Ahmadinejad may believe the Hidden Imam (supposed initiator of judgment day) is on his side," writes Nasr, "but for now Khamenei holds most of the cards."