While reformists and principlists/conservatives in Iran are often contrasted in terms of their social views, is there a consistent distinction between the groups in terms of economic policies they support?
The answer seems to be no, in the sense that both camps sub-divide on economic policies (so we get something like a two-axis "political compass"), at least in one expert's view writing about the 2016 election:
As the International Crisis Group’s Iran specialist Ali Vaez has argued, Iranian politics doesn’t divide into two neat camps — one reformist and the other conservative — but four messy ones. It can get hard to follow, so I drew a four-part grid to help visualize.
What Vaez describes as radical theocrats, but in Tehran are called “principlists,” are the top left of my grid. They include followers of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who believe the principles of the 1979 revolution — a theocratic system, ultraconservative religious values and confrontation with the West — must be upheld at any cost.
They’re on the left side of the grid because, unlike most conservatives elsewhere, they support leftist economic policies such as big government, subsidies and high welfare. In Iran’s parliament on Monday, several speakers promoted this “resistance” economy over the government’s proposals.
Next to the Ahmadinejad crowd, top right, are pragmatic principlists, who share similarly hard-line views, but favor more free-market economic policies and are willing to bend dogma to strengthen the economy. At the bottom right are what Vaez calls radical republicans, but what Iranians I spoke with called reformers. They see the authority of the state arising from elections and popular (rather than divine) will. They favor free markets, liberal social values and cooperation with the West.
And next to them, bottom left, are the pragmatic reformers, who advocate a mixed economy and more, if restricted, social freedoms, plus integration into the global economy. This is where Rouhani slots in.
The best way to understand Iran’s recent election is that three of these groups have combined to defeat the fourth: the radical principlists. And that was possible because the brief campaign turned on the nuclear deal, which in turn was seen by Iranians as being all about the economy and the need to end Iran’s international isolation.