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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
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