Iran: Post-Revolutionary Politics in Iran: Religion, Society and Power

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Post-Revolutionary Politics in Iran: Religion, Society and Power, by David Menashri. London, UK and Portland, OR: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001. xii + 324 pages. Appendix to p. 332. Gloss. to p. 336. Bibl. to p. 343. Index to p. 356. $62.50.

The Iranian revolution of 1979 brought about major transformations in Iranian domestic politics and in Iran's foreign policy orientation. The impact of the revolution is still being felt both inside and outside Iran. This book, written by an Israeli scholar and expert on Iran at Tel Aviv University, is a welcome addition to the literature on post-revolutionary Iran. The book is divided into two parts. Part One deals with the domestic scene, while Part Two focuses on the Islamic Republic's foreign policy.

Part One begins with an analysis of the ideological context of the Iranian revolution and its various Islamic manifestations. Menashri discusses at some length the crucial role of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the latter's concept of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurisconsult), and the challenges to this theological concept launched by several prominent thinkers, including high-ranking clerics. The author then discusses the power struggle in the Islamic Republic and studies factional alignments in the country. Menashri provides an informative analysis of the role of Khomeini as the arbiter of factional conflicts and the challenges faced by `Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani when the latter assumed the presidency after Khomeini's death in 1989. The system of government that Rafsanjani and his successor, Muhammad Khatami, inherited continues to exhibit the dualistic nature of this power structure. On one hand, there is the office of the rahbar (leader) occupied by Ayatollah `Ali Khamene'i. On the other hand, there is the executive department headed by President Muhammad Khatami and his allies, and to some extent his supporters in the Majlis (parliament).

The sweeping victory of a pro-reform candidate, Khatami, in the 1997 and 2001 presidential elections reflected, inter alia, the desire for change among Iran's youthful population. Although Khatami, to the chagrin of his supporters, has been unable, or unwilling, to transform the country's sociopolitical landscape, he has already succeeded in changing the political culture of the country. Perhaps Khatami's lasting legacy will be his contribution to changing the political discourse in the country. However, this modest contribution may pale when one considers the enormous economic difficulties Iran faces and the unfulfilled promise of greater sociopolitical freedom. Menashri provides an objective and thorough analysis of Iran's domestic woes in the first part of the book. …