The Role of Political Structure in Iran's Energy Decision Making Policy

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Oil revenue constitutes over 80 per cent of Iran's total export earnings and 42.5 per cent of gross domestic product. (1) The importance of oil has placed energy policy on the top of the government agenda. At the same time this huge oil revenue made the control on oil industry at the center of power struggle and competition among various political groups. These groups have tried to develop and increase their influence in oil sector with legally or illegally methods and ways.

While economic factors could justify Iran's energy policy decision-making process, they failed to explain many political factors affecting Iran's energy policy. The role of political factors in shaping Iran's energy policy can be explained by the power structure in Iran, the role of all-powerful supreme leader, the position of the president as well as the interests of ruling groups. The present study is an attempt to analyze these political factors which lead Iran's energy policy.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Energy and its decision making process in Iran have been reviewed by different scholars who have written about states behaviors in the world politics. According to their researches, energy policy decision-making can be influenced by domestic factors. According to this approach each state behaves differently as a result of its domestic political structure. For instance, while domestic political oppositions are strong in one state, leader's orientations are strong factor in the other, and interest groups are powerful in third state, and so forth.

James N. Rosenau in his work "Pre-Theories and Theories and Foreign Policy" (1966)as one of the followers of domestic explanations, argues that there are different levels of causation that shape states behaviors such as individual's role or government structure. Although, he recognizes that there are numerous domestic factors that can and do influence states behavior, these influences are necessarily channeled through the political apparatus of a government that identifies, decides, and implements policy. (2)

Policy is made by people configured in various ways depending on the nature of the problem and the structure of the government. For instance about foreign policy decision making process, Margaret G. Hermann in her book "How Decision Units Shape Foreign Policy: A Theoretical Framework" (2001) argues that two questions must be addressed if we are going to get inside the"black box" of government to understand the relevance of leadership to the policymaking: (1) What types of actors make policy decisions? (2) What is the effect of these decision units on the resulting foreign policy? Hermann has replied these questions according to the decision unit dynamics framework.

Based on the unit dynamics framework, there are three different models suggestions related to the process of government making decision foreign policy. They contain: predominant leaders, single group, and coalition. The predominant leader's model type is that "...the regime has one individual in its leadership who is vested with authority." (3) Single group assumes that" ... if the government is not structured around a single individual, there may be a designated group that is responsible for dealing with the occasion under consideration." (4) And, the coalition model means that "... the unit is composed of multiple autonomous actors. That is, two or more entities [individual leaders, groups of policymakers, bureaucratic agencies, and interest groups] have the power to commit or withhold the resources of government." (5)

According to this definition, coalition model exists in Iran where there are autonomous actors who can direct Iran's domestic and internal policies and energy policy as well. These actors include: Ministry of Oil, Supreme Leader, President, Interest Groups and Institutions, the Expediency Council, Parliament, and the Guardian Council.

SUPERVISION OF OIL MINISTRY

National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) is the fourth largest state oil firm in the world. …