Comparative politics
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Islamic Republic of Iran. PoliSci Department SUNY @ Stony Brook POL 103 (Section 2) Spring 2005 Instructor: Udi Sommer. Comparative Politics. Geography - Borders. East - Pakistan (909km of border) and Afghanistan (936km) Northeast - Turkmenistan (1000km)

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Comparative Politics

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Comparative politics

Islamic Republic of Iran

PoliSci Department

SUNY @ Stony Brook

POL 103 (Section 2)

Spring 2005

Instructor: Udi Sommer

Comparative Politics

Geography borders

Geography - Borders

  • East - Pakistan (909km of border) and Afghanistan (936km)

  • Northeast - Turkmenistan (1000km)

  • North - the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan (500km) and Armenia (35km)

  • West - Turkey (500km) and Iraq (1458km)

  • South - Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman

Political history

Political history

  • World War I

  • British interests in the Middle East (oil)

  • Iranian oil company is founded

  • Reza Khan – a modernizing tyrant with nationalist tendencies (builds roads, railways, unversities, student exchange)

  • Unpopularity at home, and suspicion he might join the Nazis abroad, lead to his fall

Political history1

Political history

  • Role during World War II

  • Following WWII – heavy Soviet involvement in northern Iran.

  • Marks the beginning of the Cold War

  • Shah is replaced by his son under British influence

  • Hopes that Iran would be a constitutional monarchy

Political history2

Political history

  • Politics quickly becomes unstable

  • Mussadegh rises to power

  • Initiates nationalization of oil industry

  • CIA makes efforts to depose Mussadegh

  • Under British and American influence the Shah forces Mussadegh from office.

  • Profits of oil company are shared evenly with foreign nations

The white revolution

The White Revolution

  • White as opposed to the Bolshevik revolution in Soviet Union which was red

  • A revolution from above

  • Shah wants to win progress economically and socially.

Elements of the reform

Elements of the Reform

  • Importing western economic ideas

  • Massive government financed heavy industries

  • Land reform

  • Women’s rights

  • Investment in education



  • No increase in democratic representation

  • Corruption

  • Not enough land to allow farmers to make their living

  • Shiite clergy displeased with reduction of their influence in education

  • Creates a major division in Iranian politics (reality in villages and reality in big cities)

2 types of opposition to the shah

2 types of opposition to the Shah

  • From the middle class – aspiring to establish a constitutional monarchy.

  • Opposition from religious sects – despise reforms and the White Revolution, and perceive the Shah to be an American puppet.

Ayatollah khomeini

Ayatollah Khomeini

  • Leader of opposition to the Shah.

  • Exile

  • Turkey, Iraq, Paris

  • Organizes a broader populist movement, using recorded speeches on cassettes, and through mosques.

  • In 1978 it is the Islamic groups rather than the middle class that rally masses against the Shah.

Key elements of iranian constitution

Key elements of Iranian constitution

  • Establish and facilitate people’s ability to live Muslim life

  • Opposes monarchy

  • Relations with non-Islamic groups

  • Supervision by Islamic judges

  • Representation of minorities

  • Islamic Supreme Leader

  • Foreign policy – independence from USA and the Soviet Union.

The constitution its elements

The Constitution – its elements

  • Shiia Islam –official religion.

  • The Supreme Leader:

  • Head of state

  • Elected and (potentially) deposed by Assembly of Experts

  • Appoints the 6 religious members of the Council of Guardians.

  • May dismiss president.

The constitution its elements1

The Constitution – its elements

  • The President:

  • Universal suffrage

  • 4 year terms

  • Appoints and supervises Council of Ministers.

  • Coordinates government

  • Selects policies

  • Council of Guardians screens candidates to the job.

The constitution its elements2

The Constitution – its elements

  • The parliament – the Majles

  • Direct and secret ballot

  • All its legislation is reviewed by the Council of Guardians

  • No members of parliament are members of any of the councils or vice versa.

The constitution its elements3

The Constitution – its elements

  • The Guardian Council of the Constitution

  • Authority to interpret constitution

  • Constitutional review of laws

  • Not a legislative body, but a power to veto.

  • Composed of 6 Islamic clerics (selected by the Supreme Leader), and 6 memebers who are lawyers.

  • Does not change with a change in Supreme Leader position

The constitution its elements4

The Constitution – its elements

  • The Assembly of Experts:

  • Selects Supreme Leader

  • Supervises the activities of the Supreme Leader

  • Popularly elected

  • Currently this is a conservative stronghold and thus considered a threat to the reform movement

The constitution its elements5

The Constitution – its elements

  • The Expediency Council

  • Resolves legislative issues that Majles and Council of Guardians fail to agree upon

  • Advises Supreme Leader on matters of national policy

  • Oversees important policies

  • Functions as a cabinet of Supreme Leader

The constitution its elements6

The Constitution – its elements

  • Judicial Authority

  • Vested in the Head of the Judiciary, who is appointed by the Supreme Leader

  • As an administrative position a Minister of Justice is appointed by the president

  • Supervises enforcement of laws.

  • Establishes judicial and legal policies

The constitution institutional arrangement

Armed Forces

Judicial Authority


- supervise

- advise

- approval

Expediency Council

Supreme Leader

Assembly of Experts


Council of Guardians

6 Religious Members

6 Lawyers

Council ofMinisters

Majles (The Parliament)


The constitution – institutional arrangement



3 components:

  • State economy

  • Cooperative economy

  • Private economy

    Growth since revolution has slowed (due to revolution, war, oil price, management, inability to establish market economy)

Latest developments

Latest developments

  • Reformers in the Majles and presidency

  • Conservatives in the Council of Guardians and the Expediency Council

  • Effects of War in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, and ‘Axis of Evil’

  • Relations with Turkey

Final comments

Final comments

  • The importance of the geographical location to the centrality of Iran in world affairs – consequential to domestic politics (e.g. relations with the USA).

  • The level of democracy – some democratic features, defined as a non-democracy

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