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Expediency Discernment Council

By mid-1987, the extent of the doctrinal conflict between the Council of Guardians and the radical elements of the Islamic Assembly had brought the legislative process and long-term economic policy formation to a standstill. After intensive consultations, in February 1988, Khomeini himself ordered the appointment of a 13-member council known as the "Assembly for Discerning the Interests of the System of the Islamic Republic" (Majma-e Tashkhis-e Maslahat-e Nezam-e Jomhuri-e Islami). The role of the Expediency Council was to settle the differences between the views of the Council of Guardians and the Islamic Assembly. In addition, the Expediency Council was given legislative authority, which enabled it to pass temporary laws, effective for a three-year period.

There were three main official functions od the EDCS. Firstly to make decisions in those cases where the ratifications of the Islamic Consultative Assembly are not confirmed by the Council of Guardians, and where the deputies insist on the implementation of the ratifications. Secondly, consultation in those matters referred thereto by the Supreme Leader. Lastly, selection of a faqih (clerical Islamic jurist) member of the Council of Guardians of the Constitution as a member of the Leadership Council, in accordance with Article 111 of the Constitution. In 2005 the Council's powers were expanded to act as a supervisory body for the government.

The Council of Expediency (more specifically the Council for Determination of Exigencies or the Expediency Discernment Council of the System or EDCS) was established to resolve legislative issues on which the Majles and the Council of Guardians fail to reach an agreement. Since 1989, it had been used to advise the national religious leader on matters of national policy as well. It was composed of heads of the three branches of government, the clerical members of the Council of Guardians, and members appointed by the national religious leader for three-year terms. The first independant Chairman of the Expediency Council was former Iranian President Ayatullah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Iranian Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei appointed Rafsanjani as chairman of the Expediency Council in 1998, after the latter's term of office as president (1989-97) ended. This was a novel development, since up to that time the President also chaired the Council.

On 18 March 1997, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei appointed 27 new members for five years and Hojjatoleslam Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as the Chairman of the EDCS thus opening a new window to the functions of the Council.

The majority of its 34 members hailed from the conservative parties. It had sided with the conservative Council of Guardians in many of its disputes with Parliament. Members included a number of ayatollah, as well as many hojatoleslam (Hojjat-ul-Islam), or "authority on Islam," one rank below an ayatollah.

In August 2001 the Supreme Leader of Iran called on the country's main arbitration body, the Expediency Council, to resolve a dispute between the parliament and the judiciary. The dispute forced a delay in the swearing in of Mohamad Khatami for a second term as president. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wanted the Expediency Council to settle the political standoff between the parliament, which was dominated by reformers, and the judiciary, which was controlled by conservatives.

At issue was the parliament's refusal to approve conservative candidates to vacancies on the Guardian Council. The dispute arose when reformers in parliament opposed the appointment of at least two conservative candidates, saying they were politically biased. Conservatives were anxious not to lose control of the Guardian Council because they fear President Mohammad Khatami and his reformist allies would then be able to push through political and social reform. The dispute over the council delayed the inauguration of President Khatami for a second four-year term.

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