Iran: Torn by Domestic Disputes   [open pdf - 40KB]

The Islamic Republic of Iran has not done well at maintaining the popular support it initially had. The young and women are, in general, either disinterested in politics or hostile to radical Islam. War veterans are another important dissatisfied group, who feel they protected the revolution and are now unappreciated. Ethnically, the groups that are not well integrated into the Islamic Republic are the various Sunni minorities, such as the Kurds, the Baluch, the Turkmen, and the Afghans. Popular attitudes are important, because the Islamic Republic is more subject to public pressure for change than might be expected. Elections are bitterly fought, although within tight bounds: opponents of clerical rule and of radical Islamism are not allowed to run. Four major factions contend, none of which is able to dominate on its own. Despite the setback it received in the May 1997 presidential elections, the clerical-bazaar alliance led by Majlis (parliament) Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri is the most powerful, controlling much of the media and the wealthy revolutionary foundations. That alliance is loosely linked to the Ansar-e Hezbollah, an ardent and radical Khomeinist group drawn from the poorer classes. The two factions share a traditionalist outlook that rejects modern culture and politics. A cornerstone of their politics is opposition to what they call Western cultural aggression. The other two factions are both modernists, heavily influenced by Western ideas, to which they give an Islamic cast. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997, sympathizes with the technocratic faction, most of whom are Western-educated and who value technological and economic development. Mohammad Khatemi, whose presidential term runs from August 1997 to 2001, comes from the left-wing faction. That faction has many differences with the technocrats; for instance, on economics it leans towards egalitarianism and social justice. The left-wingers and the technocrats cooperate at present largely because neither can, on its own, defeat the clergy-bazaar alliance. The factional alignment could reshuffle in the mid-term, as it has in the past. In the late 1980s, when the left-wing faction was strong, the technocrats and the clerical-bazaar alliance cooperated against the left-wingers until they won, but they then turned on each other

Report Number:
Strategic Forum no.124 (July 1997)
Public Domain
Media Type:
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