"Thirty-five years have passed since a senior American official last visited Iran. It has changed. Our special report in this issue describes a country whose revolutionary fire has been extinguished."
"Iran is not a straightforward dictatorship. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the last word. But his role is to adjudicate between the claims of an elite made up of thousands of politicians, clerics, generals, academics and business people. They from a confusing and ever shifting pattern of competing factions and coalitions. Although this hardly amounts to a democracy, it is a political marketplace and, as Mr. Ahmadinejad discovered, politics that tack away from the consensus do not last. That is why last year Iran elected a president, Hassan Rohani, who wants to open up to the world and who has reined in the hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Mr. Rohani belongs to the establishment, naturally but it says a lot about today's Iran that his cabinet contains more doctorates from American universities than Barack Obama's."
-as excerpted from this The Economist essay