A turbulent history A great bellwether of change in the Middle East A living museum of political regimes – Hereditary despotism (the Qajar dynasty) – Constitutional Monarchy – Absolute Monarchy – Popular Democracy – Theocratic Government Dilemmas of secularism and religion Popular movements: class, gender, ethnic, religious
The International Context Of great geopolitical importance (see map) World War I & II The global Cold War 3 rd largest proven reserves of oil Sponsor of radical Islamist groups and terrorism Controversial nuclear program
Population: - 72-74 M. Ethnicities: - Persian, Azeri, Gilaki and Mazandarani, Kurd, Arab, Lur, Baloch, Turkmen Religions: - Shi’a (91%), Sunni (7%), Zoroastrian, Christian, Jewish, and Baha’i Industries: petroleum, petrochemicals, fertilizers, textiles, cement and other construction materials
Brief timeline Present1900 1906-11 Constitutional Revolution 1950-53 Popular Democracy 1979 Islamic Government Absolutist Monarchy 1924-1979 2009 Green Movement
Revolutionary Iran: From Khomeini to Ahmadinejad and Beyond…
1979: The Iranian Revolution Roots of the Revolution: – Social (entrenched hierarchies, social repression of minorities, police-state tactics and policies) – Economic (high inflation, land reform, high loans and credits, corruption and mismanagement) – Political (royal repression of dissent, rubber-stamp parliament, role of SAVAK, Shah as the puppet of the West) – Ideological (liberation theology mixed with radical enlightenment values)
1979: The Iranian Revolution Coalition against Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi: – Islamic Ulama (clerics led by Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini and the Islamic Republic Party) – Islamic Left Parties (Tudeh Party, Mojahedin-e Khalq, Paeykar Party, and Feda’iyan-e Khalq) – Liberal Islamic Nationalists (Freedom Movement and Muslim People’s Republican Party) – Liberal Nationalists (National Front and National Democratic Front) – Others (Bazaris, student organizations, diaspora organizations, and unionists)
1979: The Islamic Revolution The Islamic Republic Party (IRP) emerges as the dominant party in the Majles. In May 1979 Khomeini establishes the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Pasdaran) Khomeini also establishes the Council of the Islamic Revolution, which served as a parallel government competing with the nationalist government of PM Mehdi Bazargan. Khomeini appoints each city’s Friday prayer leader, who became the chief purveyor of his ideology to the local population.
1980-88:The Iran-Iraq War Longest, most strategically pointless war of the 20 th century – 1-1.5 million dead, thousands wounded – Huge socioeconomic burden
1989-1997: Post-War Iran Following Ayatollah Khomeini's death on 3 June 1989 of a heart attack, Khamenei assumed the role of supreme spiritual leader. The Assembly of Experts met in emergency session on June 4 and elected President Khamenei the new Vali-e-Faqih (supreme spiritual leader), simultaneously promoting him to the status of ayatollah. Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaker of the Majles (parliament) was elected as a president.
New factional politics: – Islamic conservatives: favored less government control of the economy; – Islamic leftists: sought greater redistribution – Pragmatists and reformists: favored steps to normalize relations with the West, ease strict social restrictions, and open up the country’s political system
1997-2005: The Reform Era In 1997 Mohammad Khatami was elected president by gaining almost 70 percent of the votes cast. He campaigned on a platform of political and social reform as the only solution to Iran’s crushing economic and social problems, deeply exacerbated by eight years of war, corruption and mismanagement.
1997-2005: The Reform Era Although popular among much of the Iranian public, Khatami’s policies met considerable opposition from conservatives who controlled the legislature and judiciary.
“18 Tir (July) 1999 Crisis” Student protests against conservative blockage of Khatami’s reforms
The Failure of Reforms Khatami lost on every front Domestic criticism of Khatami’s inactions Conservative backlash Flawed reformist strategies: democracy, yes; Islam, no! Stagnant economy, growing corruption, and the rise of IRGC
2005-: Return of the Radicals Mahmood Ahmadinejad is elected President in a head-to-head campaign battle with former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Ahmadinejad, a former mayor of Tehran, ran on a populist platform of economic reform and wealth redistribution His rise to power would signify a shift in power from the pragmatist/reformist camp to the hitherto marginalized radical conservatives
2005-: Return of the Radicals Under Ahmadinejad, Iran: – Increased its support for radical Shi’a groups in Iraq and Lebanon – Increased its support of the militant Islamist Palestinian group Hamas – Overtly challenged the existence of the State of Israel and the Holocaust (long a taboo subject in the IRI) – Sped up its nuclear program and began the process of uranium enrichment in earnest
2005-: Return of the Radicals Iran’s oil exports reached their highest peak in thirty years in 2007-08 (900 million barrels) But unemployment and inflation are also at their highest levels Under Ahmadinejad the IRGC has become the de facto governing body, in charge of the armed forces, the petrochemical sector, and the executive branch IRGC loyalists also control the judiciary and the Council of Guardians