After Khomeini: Iran under His Successors

After Khomeini: Iran under His Successors

After Khomeini: Iran under His Successors

After Khomeini: Iran under His Successors


For many Americans, Iran is our most dangerous enemy--part of George W. Bush's "axis of evil" even before the appearance of Ahmadinejad. But what is the reality? How did Ahmadinejad rise to power, and how much power does he really have? What are the chances of normalizing relations with Iran?

In After Khomeini, Saïd Amir Arjomand paints a subtle and perceptive portrait of contemporary Iran. This work, a sequel to Arjomand's acclaimed The Turban for the Crown, examines Iran under the successors of Ayatollah Khomeini up to the present day. He begins, as the Islamic Republic did, with Khomeini, offering a brilliant capsule biography of the man who masterminded the revolution that overthrew the Shah. Arjomand draws clear distinctions between the moderates of the initial phrase of the revolution, radicals, pragmatists, and hardliners, the latter best exemplified by Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Taking a chronological and thematic approach, he traces the emergence and consolidation of the present system of collective rule by clerical councils and the peaceful transition to dual leadership by the ayatollah as the supreme guide and the subordinate president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He explains the internal political quarrels among Khomeini's heirs as a struggle over his revolutionary legacy. And he outlines how the ruling clerical elite and the nation's security forces are interdependent politically and economically, speculating on the potential future role of the Revolutionary Guards. Bringing the work up to current political events, Arjomand analyzes Iran's foreign policy as well, including the impact of the fall of Communism on Iran and Ahmadinejad's nuclear policy.

Few countries loom larger in American foreign relations than Iran. In this rich and insightful account, an expert on Iranian society and politics untangles the complexities of a nation still riding the turbulent wake of one of history's great revolutions.


Iran has not ceased to surprise the world since the American ambassador’s famous “thinking the unthinkable” 1978 cable about the imminent fall of the Shah and the coming of the Islamic revolution. The apparent sequence of moderate government under President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (1989–1997) and democratic reform under President Mohammad Khatami (1997–2005) was followed by a spectacular reversal no one foresaw. The hardliners returned to capture the Majles (Iranian parliament) in the national elections of 2004, and one of their leaders, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, beat a former President (Hashemi-Rafsanjani) and two much better known reformist candidates in the presidential elections of 2005. President Ahmadinejad (2005–2009) has revived the revolutionary populism of old, now coupled with an aggressive foreign policy, including a nuclear program. Iran’s political regime has proved remarkably resilient through all these changes, despite the disaffection of the younger half of the population. And the regime has become all the more robust and defiant internationally, partly as a result of the Bush administration’s ill-advised bluff about regime change from 2002 onward.

The greatest misunderstanding concerning Iran after the revolution stems from the assumption that the revolution was over, either with the victory of pragmatism and Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s program of economic reconstruction in 1989, following the Iran–Iraq war, or with the rise of the reform movement under Khatami in 1997. The truth is that the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah . . .

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