Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has defined a new role for the Assembly of Experts, directing them to hold the three branches of the government accountable.
The constitutional role of the assembly is to supervise the supreme leader, not the executive or legislative powers. The assembly is empowered to designate or dismiss the supreme leader.
In a meeting with members of the assembly on September 21, Khamenei tasked them to assess the accomplishments and failures of Iran in achieving the goals of the revolution.
In this regard, he asked the assembly to demand accountability from various state bodies, including the three branches of the government.
The Assembly of Experts consists of 88 members, many senior clerics, who are elected by popular vote, but are screened by the Guardian Council, which is under the supreme leader’s control. Therefore, an assembly, which is constitutionally tasked to be watchdog over the supreme leader, is basically selected by him.
Moreover, some members of the assembly who have disagreed with Khamenei in the past, have been arrested or ostracized.
For assessing accomplishments and failures, Khamenei mentioned several issues he deems important.
He asked the assembly to consider “ridding the existing culture of Western elements.” He also mentioned the need to gain economic power, “fight poverty, achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth,” and uphold the tenets of the revolution.
In an interview with Radio Farda, Paris-based Iranian journalist and analyst Morteza Kazemian said, “Unfortunately, the supreme leader has defined a new and illegal mission for the Assembly of Experts, just to divert the assembly from its main mission.”
Kazemian added that the assembly has become more of a ceremonial body that, instead of supervising the supreme leader, carries out his agenda.
The chairman of the assembly, hardline ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, also announced that the duty of the body is “the consolidation of the supreme leader’s positions” and demanding accountability from other organs of the state.
Ali Motahari, the outspoken deputy speaker of parliament who is a social conservative, had said earlier this year that the assembly is not doing its duty of supervising the supreme leader. He insisted many members “have a lot to say” but are afraid of expressing their views because of what often happens to critics.