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Iran Notes

by: Lindsay Baldwin
Lindsay Baldwin
Virginia Tech
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This is both classes' notes for discussion on Iran.
Comparative Government and Politics
Dr. Taylor
Class Notes




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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Lindsay Baldwin on Friday March 18, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSCI 1024 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University taught by Dr. Taylor in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 16 views. For similar materials see Comparative Government and Politics in Political Science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.


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Date Created: 03/18/16
Iran Beyond Capitalism and Socialism  Iran goes back over 2.5 millennia; it is NOT new.  Originally called Persia.  Beginning with Zoroastrianism o Ancient religion o Still very few left in the world, but most of them became Shia Muslims  Persians spoke Farsi (more like western European languages than Arabic)  When we talk about the Islamic world, we are talking about much more than Arabs  Very little sense of pride within the culture  “Cult of a personality”  particular people have more of a the right to be respected and taken into account than others Islam  The political order and the religious order are one  Politics is judged by religious principles The Shari’a (basic law of Islam) is complete  Rulers do not need to make new laws  Nor do they need to replace old laws Four Main Sources of Shari’a  The Qur’an o Mohammed received it from Allah o Main source of the law  Sunnah of the Prophet (the Hadith) o Sayings of Mohammed  Consensus of the Scholars  Oiyas o Interpretation not clearly covered by the Qur’an or the Sunnah  The latter two differ from school to school Two Branches of Islam  Differ based on opinions of Mohammed’s successor  Very similar to the division between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland  Sunni o Religion under the domain of the state  Religious leaders frequently were appointed by the government  Religion was a “department” of the government o Ulama (people who understand the nature of Islam; the leaders and teachers) work under aegis of state (“hired” by the state)  Shi’i o Religion skeptical of the state  Ordinary people with political power could make the wrong decisions o Ulama not traditionally identified with political power  Part of the nation and the people, but in no way part of the state Iran  Center of Shi’i Islam  Unlikely ground for religious effort to reform the political system  Shia believe you can never have political justice until the Madih returns o You don’t expect much from government, or the world, until then Shi’ite religious leaders historically outside politics  Developed distinct corporate identity among themselves o Outsiders get together with outsiders o You can’t isolate more than one person because they’ll get together  Became independent political force in the process o They were able to articulate what they thought the society should be and how it should operate o This allowed them to gain a following  Took over state in 1979 o Iran was taken over by young people in a religious revolutionary effort to the Shah’s regime (and became an enemy of the US) o Created a new regime The Ulama  Clerical establishment  Primarily Shi’i  Not always united politically  Nevertheless, strong supporters of the current regime  While there are differences among the Shi’i, they are all still Shia; they are all still Muslim; they have one single opinion about the state  The president can be a cleric or not; he can be open (a reformist) or not. There are a multitude of possibilities in a regime. Political Culture  Political cultures, in general, are fairly long term. There are changes, but not drastic ones.  Authoritarian o Still a view of the country as a whole, particularly in non-urban areas  Conspiratorial view of politics o They know something is not right, but they don’t quite know what the problem is  Islamic desire for egalitarianism o Comes from the religion itself o There is a strong sense that you need to give alms to those who have less than you do o Easy for fundamentalists to gain legitimacy among the uma Revolt  Mossedeq wanted to modernize Iran o Free trade and capitalism  Rejection of the liberal nationalism of Mossedeq o Did not set well with fundamentalists (does not fit the traditional understanding of Islam)  Rejection of the authoritarian development plans of the Shah (the monarch)  Insistence on rule of the Shari’a From the video: Islamic state is Islamic at the private level and the public level. Everything is integrated into religion. The Mullahs are like lawyers: they can offer views, but he community makes the final decision. The values of Islam go against a “nationalistic state.” Islam is a way of life and thus dominates politics.  The revolution set up a theocracy ruled by a faqih, who interpreted Islam to the people as a whole.  There are six different parts of government in Iran.  The power of the faqih is above all. Ayatollah hold a position of authority in the scholarly community, and the faqih is one of those. The faqih has the last word on political and religious issues. Ayatollah Khomeini  Divine mission to create an Islamic state  A government of eternal and absolute laws  A faqih, knowledgeable about Islamic laws, to rule  No secular monarch needed Velayat-e Faqih  Absolute authority derived from Allah  Veto power over all political and economic decisions  Morality and spirituality, not commerce and liberty  Alms giving as a doctrine Theocracy  State governed by divine guidance (religious state: think early New England) o Freedom of religion is nonexistent  Rejection of modern civil and penal laws  Reversion to the direct rule of the Shari’a  The Shah’s wealth for the disinherited Political decisions  Made by the ulama, ultimately by the Faqih  A state within the state for religious control  Armed committee as police  Revolutionary guards as army  Revolutionary courts to maintain Islamic order President  Elected by universal suffrage  Four year term o Max of two terms  Highest state authority after the Supreme Leader  Holds executive power  Determines government policy  Selects and dismisses ministers  All presidents since the Iranian revolution have been supporters of the regime President Khatami (1997-2005)  Reformist president  Advocate of freedom of expression, civil society, and economic liberalism  Successful economic reconstruction  Advocate of dialogue of civilizations  Faced wild resistance from clerics  Less Islamic dress, wilder parties, more freedom to express opinions  Loss of status for ayatollahs  But publications banned, journalists imprisoned, students jailed, candidates disbarred President Ahmadinejad (2006-2013)  Controversial figure  Not of the Ulama (unlike other presidents)  Hardline secular goals  Hard on dissidents  Emphasizes needs of the poor o Became popular because of this  Economy in a mess o Highest budget deficit  Supporter of the nuclear program  Faced Iranian Green Revolution o Young people took to the streets because they didn’t like that Ahmadinejad was elected twice o There was suspicion that the elections weren’t fair o Police brutality towards protesters, sparking even more protests President Hassan Rouhani (2014-present)  In 2013, Hassan Rouhani, leader of the Moderation and Development Party, won by a landslide  Like most other Presidents, he is a member of the Ulama  Campaigned with moderate stand on domestic affairs  Committed to reviving the economy and ending international sanctions on Iran o Realized that isolation was not the best idea for the economy  More moderate tone internationally, including the recent negotiation on nuclear matters o Signed current agreement with US on nuclear affairs Majles  Unicameral legislature (parliament)  290 members with four year terms  elected by the people  Must vote confidence in ministers o Work side-by-side with Supreme Leader and religious sect of government  Approve budget and pass laws Judiciaries  Structure o Supreme court o Chief Public Prosecutor o Revolutionary Courts o Clerical Courts o Public Courts  Head of Judiciary, who is appointed by the Faqih, appoints head of Supreme Court and chief public prosecutor  Courts report directly to the Supreme Leader  Population: 60 million, 46 mil of which are old enough to vote  Young people comprise about 50% of the voting electorate Ayatollah Ruhollah Khamenei  Gave 19 lectures that developed concept of Faqih  Believed that there was a need for the government of Faqih who would oversee the government and make sure that they were following Islamic law  The first Faqih Velayat-e Faqih  Faqih has absolute authority derived from Allah  Has power over all decisions  Head of armed forces  Sole power to declare war and peace  Head of radio and television networks  Appoints, dismisses, and approves all aspects of the government o Including the President  A tweet from the faqih: Assembly of Experts (Majles)  86 religious scholars  elects and dismisses the Faqih from among qualified Shi’ite clergy o dismissal has never happened before  8 year terms Guardian Council  12 jurists: six are appointed by the Faqih; six elected by the Majles  Must approve all legislation coming from the Majles  Must agree to all candidates for the legislature  Most influential sect in Iranian politics Hardliners  Want to redistribute incomes more fairly (social justice)  Are obsessed with religious and social dogma and anti-Westernism o Anti-westernism is not just based on Islam. Economics and politics also enjoy Conservatives  Favor an economic opening to the West if it supports local business interests  Want to enforce traditional religious restrictions on people’s private lives Pragmatists/Reformists  Want to concentrate on economic growth (controlled capitalism) o Has a lot of oil potential  Favor some reduction of social and economic regulations Iran is not uni-dimensional  Distinction between Government Politics and people’s opinion o Americans are more liked in Iran than anywhere else in the Middle East o Favor restored relations with the United States  Literacy rate o 82% of adults are now literate o 97% of young adults (age 18-24) are literate  Higher Education o 92 universities o One of the highest rates of engineers in the world o One of the highest Education GDP rates in the world o 50% of education spending is devoted to secondary education  Clothing restrictions o Hijab has been huge in politics o Women are relatively allowed to choose their outfits as long as they cover their head (including tourists)  Scientific Research o Yearly growth rate of 25% in science and technology o One of the most developed countries in scientific research Iran, like any other country, is very complex. It is one of the most unique countries in the world.


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