Checking Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

By Henry Sokolski; Patrick Clawson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3

IRAN'S INTERNAL STRUGGLES

Geneive Abdo


Overview.

This chapter argues that prospects for fundamental reform, much less outright revolutionary change, in the Islamic Republic of Iran are minimal in the short- to medium-term. In the complete absence today of any coherent, organized opposition and that of any competing ideology that could effectively challenge the continued clerical dominance, Iran's national struggle will remain for the foreseeable future a matter to be hashed out within the ruling coalition of “political mullahs” and lay revolutionary activists and other Islamic intellectuals. It is the members of this elite, known in contemporary Persian as “insiders,” who together comprise the two primary political factions, labeled by the Western terms “reformers” and “hard-liners.” The fate of the Iranian nation has remained exclusively within this carefully controlled circle since the consolidation of the Islamic Revolution, and there are no signs that either wing is prepared to open the door to meaningful participation by “outsiders” beyond the pale of the revolutionary discourse. As a result, any clues to the future of Iran must be found among the behavior, interests and ideology of the “insiders.”

To show why this is the case, I will present a complex, interrelated set of religious, social and political factors shaping the nation's destiny. These include: the essence and dynamics of the ruling clerical caste, which is deeply divided among “hard-liners,” “reformers,” and quietist “traditionalists”; the structure of the Islamic state and the extraordinary concentration of executive and supervisory powers in the hands of the appointed supreme clerical leader; the failure of “internal reform” led by President Mohammad Khatami; and the complete lack of any legitimate or credible opposition political movement or cohesive ideological challenge to

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