Iran and Democracy
- The Islamic Republic of Iran has struggled with its primary political identity since the 1979 revolution: Should the state be based on religious principles mandated by God? Or should it be based on man-made laws about democratic governance and the will of the people?
- Prominent reformists have sought to harness Islam for democratic ends. But hard-line clerics insist that Twelver Shiism vests ultimate power in the Rahbar, or supreme leader, with his allies in the clerical establishment.
- Protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election reflected the intense internal debate over the linkage between Islam and democracy.
- A new generation of ultra-hardliners in the “New Right,” led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has sought to weaken parliament, even as they proclaimed their commitment to the will of the “people.”
- The New Right has antagonized well-established lay political groups and the clergy who share a common interest in preventing a new Islamic despotism. But they lack a common vision of the political future and a leader with the populist allure to define such a vision.
- The clerical right was a group of radicalized clerics. Backed by the urban lower classes, they perceived Khomeini as a charismatic, even semi-divine, savior. Loyal disciples, they embraced his novel idea of velayat-e faqih or the “guardianship of the jurist.” Khomeini’s doctrine called for a supremeleader who would rule with executive and judicial authority inherited through the Prophet Mohammed.
- The Islamic left was a group of lay political intellectuals joined by a new breed of left-leaning clerics. These clerics were based in institutions such as Tehran University and invoked the ideas of a charismatic sociologist, Ali Shariati. Shariati blended Shiite Islam with Marxist notions of popular revolution under an intellectual vanguard speaking for the masses. Shariati held that a dominant lay political party – rather than the clerics—should constitute that vanguard.
- The debate over republic versus religion will be central to Iranian politics for the foreseeable future, even if the Green Movement recedes as an opposition force.
- The new generation of ultra-hardliners will complicate – and possibly preclude – a peaceful resolution to the democracy versus Islam debate.
- For the New Right, electoral procedures now appear useful largely to legitimize their rule.
|Iran and Democracy.pdf||252.13 KB|
The Islamists Are Coming
The Islamists Are Coming, edited by Robin Wright, surveys the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
"The Iran Primer"--Book Overview
“The Iran Primer” brings together 50 top experts—Western and Iranian—in comprehensive but concise overviews of Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program. Each link connects to a complete chapter on one of 62 subjects in 10 categories. Printable PDF attachments also are at the bottom. Timely analysis is added weekly. The book also chronicles U.S.-Iran relations under six U.S. presidents. It probes five policy options. And it offers timelines, bios of top leaders, and data on nuclear sites and specific sanctions resolutions. And it provides context and analysis for what lies ahead. Click here to order the book.