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Iran An Islamic Republic. Ancient History. Persia; part of different empires 4 th century conquered by Alexander the Great Left structure in place Monarchy through 6th century Hereditary military leaders Islam spreads rapidly from 632 to 650 CE Through 11th century ruled by caliph

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ancient history
Ancient History

Persia; part of different empires

4th century conquered by Alexander the Great

Left structure in place

Monarchy through 6th century

Hereditary military leaders

Islam spreads rapidly from 632 to 650 CE

Through 11th century ruled by caliph

Poli and religious figure)

Caliphate defeated by Mongols in 13th century

Dynastic rule from 16th to 20th century

modern history
Modern History

Constitutional Revolution 1906

Constitutional monarchy with legis body

1925 Reza Khan becomes Shah (king)

Modernizes: education, rail, conscription

Represses: press, Majlis, political activists jailed

1941 Reza Khan ousted by SU/UK; son Reza Pahlavi becomes Shah

modern history1
Modern History

White Revolution 1963

Counter to “red” communists

Land reform: govt bought from absentee owners, sold cheaply to farmers

Encouragement of agricultural entrepreneurship

Women’s rights expanded


Restricting polygamy

Labor rights

criticisms of white revolution
Criticisms of White Revolution

Clergy opposed to reforms

Suffrage for women; govt taking away power of religious leaders

Charasmatic Khomeini exiled; began to promote idea of theocracy


Unhappy abt redistribution of land; govt defending laborers

Shah becomes more authoritarian

Freedoms restricted

Wealth from oil kept by Shah

Reforms led to growth of intelligentsia, urban working class, independent farmers

No feelings of loyalty to Shah; loyal to clerics

Frustration with corruption

Oil prices decrease ~10% in late 1970s

Consumer prices rise about 20%

Inflation, erosion of middle class

Revolution of rising expectations

standard of living improves, setback occurs, people revolt

US pressures Shah to loosen restrictions on civil society

Easing of restrictions allows people to feel free enough to join revolt

iranian revolution
Iranian Revolution

Reaction against modernization and repression by shah

Fundamentalists encouraged by US, UK

Khomeini still in exile

Teachings promote overthrow of secular govt

Shah attempts to discredit Khomeini, but this only strengthens his supporters

iranian revolution1
Iranian Revolution


Unarmed demonstrators killed in Tehran

Oil workers strike

Shah declares martial law

2 million ppl participate in anti-regime protests

rallies are organized and led by clerics

Shah flees to Egypt in Feb 1979

Khomeini returns from exile

Shah replaced by provisional govt

Khomeini returns to Iran in1979

Used charismatic power to gain control (Supreme leader) and implement a theocratic regime

Suppresses all opposition

1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War

Iran: Attempt to spread Shiism

Iraq: Seize territory

Widespread destruction

War ends w/o victor

Khomeini dies

  • Shi’a clerics took dominant position in politics and nearly all aspects of Iranian life
  • After fall of Pahlavi dynasty, urban upper class of prominent merchants, industrialists, and professionals, favored by the former monarch, lost standing and influence to the senior clergy and their supporters
  • Urban working class, who allied with clergy, enjoyed enhanced status and economic mobility
country facts
Country Facts
  • Slightly larger than Alaska
  • 10% arable land
  • Mostly desert and mountains
  • Ethnic groups: 51% Persian
  • Religion: 89% Shi’a Muslim
  • Languages: Farsi/Persian dialects 58%
  • Literacy: 79%
  • Per capita income: $11, 200
  • Unemployment rate: 14.6%
  • Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal
    • Primary industry: petroleum, petrochemicals
  • Exports: $78.7 bil (China, Japan, India)
  • Imports: $58.9 (UAE, China, Germany)
  • GDP: 863.5 billion

Total population: 76 million

Universal suffrage when over 18 yrs

50% of voters are under 30 yrs old

Voter turn out has decreased since 1997 due to disillusionment with elections



290 members, single member districts

Elected by popular vote every 4 yrs

Introduce/pass laws

All bill must by approved by Gaurdian Council

Summon/impeach ministers or president

2000: Reformist majority

2004: Reformists banned

  • Members have to be Muslims but Constitution allows 5 members to represent Christians (3), Jews (1), and Zoroastrians (1)

Second-highest ranking official

Head of government

In reality, powers are circumscribed by clerics and Conservatives in Iran’s power structure and the authority of the Supreme Leader

Candidates are vetted by Guardian Council

president mahmoud ahmadinejad
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Elected in 2005

Reelected (disputed) in 2009


Former mayor of Tehran

First president since 1981 who is not a cleric

assembly of experts
Assembly of Experts

86 members, directly elected every 8 years

Appoint/remove Supreme Leader

Exercises broad constitutional interpretation, along with Supreme Leader and Guardian Council

Dominated by Conservatives 

guardian council
Guardian Council

12 male clerics

6 appointed by Supreme Leader, 6 nominated by judiciary and approved by Majles

Reviews bills passed by the Majlis to ensure compliance with Sharia law (can veto)

Decide who competes in elections (can bar candidates)

Controlled by Conservatives

Reformists have tried to reduce vetting power unsuccessfully

Council banned all but 6 candidates out of 1000 in the 2005 elections, Supreme Leader added 2 more

All female candidates were blocked

cabinet council of ministers
Cabinet/Council of Ministers

Chosen by president

Approved/impeached by parliament

Supreme Leader has influence over process

Cabinet is chaired by president or first vice-president

supreme leader
Supreme Leader

Imam of the entire community –most powerful political figure

Constitutional powers:

Faqih: leading Islamic jurist to interpret religious texts and sharia law

Links 3 branches of government together, maymediate among them

Determines the interests of Islam

Can eliminate pres candidates, dismiss pres, command armed forces, declare war/peace, appoint/remove major administrators and judges, nominate 6 members of Guardian Council, confirms the election results

Chosen by Assembly of Experts

Tension between Supreme Leader and President

ayatollah khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei

President from 1981-1989

Supreme Leader since 1989

Confidant of Khomeini

expediency council
Expediency Council

Referee over disputes between the Guardian Council and the Majlis

Supreme Leader appoints its members

prominent political, religious, social figures

2005: granted supervisory powers over all branched over govt, Supreme Leader delegated his power

Chaired by former President Rafsanjani, who was defeated by Amadinejad

jurist s guardianship
Jurist’s Guardianship

Velayat-e faqih

Principle instituted by Khomeini

Overarching authority of:

Supreme Leader

Guardian Council

Assembly of Experts

Expediency Council

Authority based on ability to follow religious teachings and commitment to protect rights of people


Until early 1900s controlled by clergy

Then secularized

After Revolution, Supreme Court revoked all laws that were deemed un-Islamic

Defines legal policy

Nominated 6 lay members of Guardian Council

Head of judiciary is appointed by Supreme Leader

judiciary cont
Judiciary cont
  • Shari’a law: Islamic law
  • Qanun: no sacred basis; can not contradict Shari’a law
  • Judicial review does not exist other than review by Expediency Council, Assembly of Experts, and Guardian Council
armed forces
Armed Forces

Revolutionary Guard and regular forces

Under joint general command

All commanders are appointed by Supreme Leader; report only to Supreme Leader

Revolutionary Guard has powerful presence in other institutions and controls volunteer militas in every town

8th largest military in the world


Huge, dominated by clergy

Plagued by clientelism, corruption, mismanagement, patronage

Size doubled since 1979


Despite guarantees of liberties in 1979 Constitution, govt has regularly:

Suppressed newspapers, labor unions, private orgs, poli parties

Executed political reformers or caused them to fleeBanned demonstrations and public meetings

Recent protests following 2009 election of Ahmadinejad:

Calls for the election to be annulled

Dispersed with thousands of Revolutionary Guards and Basij

Disputed death toll

Use of social media to commuicate w/in Iran and w/ outside world

ideological differences
Ideological differences
  • Conservatives
    • clerics; those arguing for stricter societal rules; support market-oriented policies; greater authority for Supreme Leader
  • Pragmatists
    • more accommodating on social issues; suprt economic liberalization/privatization
  • Radicals
    • support increased state control of economy to ensure greater social justice
shi a islam
Shi’a Islam
  • Shi’a: supported Mohammed's son-in-law (Ali)
    • Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan
  • Sunni: supported Mohammed’s father-in-law
    • Sunni majority
  • Twelver (hidden) Imam
    • prophet successors to Muhammad
    • 12th disappeared, believed to be alive, will return w/ Jesus
  • Shari’a law
    • Based on Koran, Sunnah (deeds, sayings of Muhammad)
    • Northern Nigeria
oil petropolitics
  • Under Pahlavi, Iran transformed to rentier state:
    • state derives substantial portion of revenue from “rent” payments made by foreign countries/institutions
    • rentier economy: heavily supported by state expenditure
    • govt relies less on tax revenue
  • Abt 50% of the economy is subject to central planning
  • Cleavage between elites w/ close ties to oil $ and elites w/ close ties to clergy
  • Instability of oil prices
  • Due to massive wealth generated by oil, Iran shifts away from agriculture
mass media
Mass Media
  • Many privately owned newspapers and magazines
  • Government has forced pro-Reform media outlets to shut down
  • Highly educated elite
  • Radio and TV, govt run: Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting