Expediency Council

What are statuses and duties of the "Expediency Council" in the Iranian system?

A glance at the history of the "Expediency Discernment Council of the System's” establishment, its status, as well as its legal duties:

Senior board of advisors to the Leader

On August 14, 2017 Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, issued a decree wherein he appointed the new chairman, secretary and members of the Expediency council for a 5-year term. For this occasion, Khamenei.ir publishes a brief report to review the history of the "Expediency Discernment Council of the System's” establishment, its status, as well as legal duties:


The fruit of Imam Khomeini’s sagacity and comprehensive outlook

“Expediency Discernment Council of the System” is one of the most important organizations and entities of the Islamic system, which was created upon Imam Khomeini’s initiative. It is a lasting, wonderful achievement, founded by our great leader during a time when the country’s needs emerged; hence, he increased--to the required level--the possibility of excellent management within the country.”[1] Historically, the establishment of the council has gone through some ups and downs, moving through a particular trajectory. One of the most critical problems and challenges of the country, during the first decade after the victory of the revolution, was the conformation of the Islamic consolatory parliament’s approval to the provisions of the Islamic law and constitution—to be examined by the Guardian Council. Imam Khomeini (ra) penned a letter in 1981, wherein for the first time he allowed the members of the parliament to pass and implement—if won by the majority of votes— issues based on the expediency of the system, making it clear that it would be applied temporarily, just as long as the issue is of concern: “The members of parliament are allowed to pass and implement—after investigation of the issue by a majority of legal advisers from the Islamic consolatory parliament--what involves the preservation of the Islamic Republic: the implementation or abandonment of that which causes disruptions within the system; as well as,  any prerequisites to the abandonment or implementation of that which necessarily leads to corruption; or the implementation or abandonment of that which leads to committing sins, provided that it is declared as temporary, applied only as long as the issue is a matter of concern, therefore revoked automatically once it is no longer of apprehension.”[2]


Nevertheless, the controversies between parliament and the Guardian Council on the issue of conforming the approvals of parliament into Islamic law and the constitution did not end. The controversial issues during those years included "the law of labor” and concerns surrounding it. The continuation of such controversies and challenges prepared the ground for Imam Khomeini (ra) to issue a decree in 1987, following some correspondence from high-ranking officials of the time, to establish the “Expediency Discernment Council of the System” in order to resolve disagreements: “In case an agreement is not reached between the Islamic consolatory parliament and the guardian council, legally or based on Sharia, a council is to be established to discern the expediency of the Islamic system; and, if necessary, other experts can be invited, and after required consultations are done, the vote of the majority of this council will be applied.”[3]


Promotion and proliferation of the duties:


Along this historical trajectory and after the revision of the constitution in 1988, the council gained a legal status within the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran: “The Expediency Discernment Council of the System is established, upon the order of the Supreme Leader, to discern the expediency in cases where the approvals of the Islamic consolatory parliament are considered against the law, or the constitution by the Guardian Council and the parliament, taking into account the expediency of the system, does not manage to get approval from the guardian council, as well as offering advice in cases wherein the leader refers to the council or other duties mentioned by law. The permanent and variable members of the council are appointed by the Supreme Leader.”[4]


In addition to consolidation of the legal position with the revision of the constitution, the council gained responsibilities--more than just resolving disagreements between the parliament and the Guardian Council. “Offering advice to the Leader in designation of general policies” and “settling general problems of the country” were included in the new set of responsibilities assigned for the council: “In the face of constitutional guidelines, this council serves as a proficient and trustworthy advisor to the Leader in designation of general policies of the system, as well as resolving general problems of the country and important issues which the Leader consigns to the council; it also continues to play a role in discerning the expediency of cases where there is discrepancy between the approvals of parliament and the vote of the Guardian Council, practically overcoming dilemmas the system may encounter.”[5]


Accordingly, the Expediency Council plays a key role in the designation of the system’s general policies: “The process of designation of the general polices, is a very strong and robust process. These policies are first outlined in various commissions of the government and are then handed to the administration. The administration examines and endorses these policies and offers them to the Leader. The Leader consigns them to the Expediency Council. These policies are studied and upgraded through various commissions of the Expediency Council by several experts from different economic, cultural, academic and scientific sectors, they can be members of the council or from outside the council. In the next step, the policies are handed again to the Leader. The Leader verifies the conformity of these policies to the principles and guidelines of the Islamic Republic, approves them and returns them to the administration to communicate them to the parliament.”[6]


An influential pillar in the governance structure:


In a nutshell, it can be said that although the council was originally established with an initiative by Imam Khomeini to resolve the structural problem of resolving disagreements between the parliament and the Guardian Council, through a historical process, it was turned into an important pillar in the structure of policymaking and governance of the Islamic Republic. It is an entity whose function and decision-making has an important impact on the outlining of major policies among the country, as well as advising the Leader to the extent that the Leader of the Revolution once described the key status and role of the council as the “Senior advisory board to the Leader”: “According to the set of responsibilities designated by the constitution, this council of expediency is positioned at a level of a senior advisory board to the Leader of the Islamic Republic.”[7]


5 Key Headings:


The status and impact of the Expediency Council was once again brought to attention in the Supreme Leader’s recent decree of appointment of the members to the council: “I thank the All-knowing and Almighty God, whose guidance and assistance made the Council of Expediency successful in the performance of their crucial duties; for having enabled this legal entity to play an influential role in the management of the country for over a quarter of a century.”[8] Of course, Ayatollah Khamenei demanded changes to be made within the structure and content of the entity--given the existing experiences—within 5 important headings:

1. Organizing a set of general policies, as well as revising the titles and their process of appointments and assignment;

2. Organizing the issue of supervision of the policies;

3. Necessary setup of assessing efficiency and effectiveness of the policies;

4. Creating thorough coherence within the organizational and managerial structure, and the focusing of programs based on the approved directory;

5. Boosting the agility of the organization, and removing the unnecessary and parallel sections.[9]


These important issues indicate that a great and serious responsibility is to be carried by members of the council.


[1] Appointment of the new members of the Expediency Council; March 17, 1997

[2] Imam Khomeini (ra)’s letter to the chairman of the Islamic Consolatory parliament; October 11, 1981

[3] Imam Khomeini’s (ra) letter in response to a group of government officials; February 06, 1988

[4] Article 112 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran

[5] Appointment of the new members of the Expediency Council; March 17, 1997

[6] Statements made in meeting with a group of university students in Qazvin; December 17, 2003

[7] Appointment of the new members of the Expediency Council; March 17, 1997

[8] Appointment of the new members of the Expediency Council; August 14, 2017.

[9] Appointment of the new members of the Expediency Council; August 14, 2017.