How is Iran governed? Is the state accountable to its society? How have Iran’s political institutions evolved since the 1979 revolution? In short, Postrevolutionary Iran: the Leader, the People, and the Three Powers argues that the answers to these critical questions are neither as certain nor as fixed as much of the existing literature on this topic would lead one to believe. Part 1 of the book (chapters 1–3) analyzes what Iran’s Constitution refers to as “the Three Powers”: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government along with the unique mediating institutions of the Guardian and Expediency Councils. In each chapter, the author describes the unique structure and function of the governing institution as outlined in Iran's Constitution, then explains how the institution has evolved in practice over time. Several trends emerge from this analysis, including, among others, the growing influence of the military in politics, the expanding power of the Guardian Council at the expense of the parliament, and the widening asymmetry of executive power favoring the supreme leader at the expense of the president. In Part 2 of the book (chapters 4–6), the analytical focus shifts from Iran’s formal political institutions to consider instead the relationship between state and society more broadly, with chapters on Iran's military and economic structure, social movements, and public attitudes and the media. Finally, in the concluding chapter, the author offers a comprehensive view of what this analysis of Iran’s political institutions in theory and practice reveals about both the resilience of Iran’s political system and its capacity for meaningful change.
R.R. Asaadi is an instructor in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.
Part I: The “Three Powers” in Principle and in Practice
Chapter 1: Executive Power
Chapter 2: Legislative Power
Chapter 3: Judicial Power and the Mediating Councils
Part II: State and Society
Chapter 4: Military and Economic Power
Chapter 5: Social Movements
Chapter 6: Public Attitudes and the Media
In this short book, Asaadi reviews the Iranian Constitution, offering an optimistic case that the Islamic Republic can adopt liberalizing measures under the existing legal structure. Highlighting ambiguous language in the constitution and focusing on the more liberal political attitudes of the younger generation in Iran, the author argues that new interpretations of the fundamental rules can lead to meaningful government reform without the need for regime change. Asaadi does not contend that this is certain to happen or provide estimates of its probability; rather, he limits the work to identifying a possible path to peaceful reform.... Given the brevity of the book, some background knowledge of modern Iran’s political history is useful for a fair assessment of the argument presented. This work is thus best suited for area specialists. Recommended. Graduate students and faculty.
Packed with an arsenal of dazzling facts and signposted by a comprehensive analysis, this book makes a decisive contribution to our understanding of contemporary Iran. A study with bravado and acumen on a pivotal country that is too often misrepresented.
Postrevolutionary Iran is a crucially important and timely book. In an era when the Islamic Republic of Iran is widely vilified, but very poorly understood, Asaadi provides a powerful corrective in this richly informative and cogently incisive analysis. The focus is on the possibility for political change in and reformation of the Islamic Republic. Asaadi’s diagnosis challenges dominant strands of thought, both popular and academic, which hold that the Islamic Republic is unchanging and even unreformable. At the same time, his argument is not pollyannish or wishful thinking about wholesale transformation. Instead, this book offers a highly informed perspective on the limited, but nonetheless consequential, likelihood of political change in Iran, based on a detailed examination of political institutions and practical politics in Iran over the 40+-year history of the Republic and including particular attention to the current context. The analysis focuses on both the formal (e.g. Constitutional provisions) and the practical functioning of: the Supreme Leader; the Presidency (across the several different Presidential regimes); the complex relationship between the two (clerical and secular) executive institutions; the legislature; the judiciary; and the state in relation to national economy and civil society (political parties, public opinion and mass media, and protest movements). The text is rich with information. Asaadi’s book is a must-read for all who aspire to see contemporary Iran as far more complex and nuanced than mere Rogue state in the international system.
Asaadi has artfully engaged in the fraught debates over the possibilities for democratic transition in Iran. He does so with care and attention to the Iranian constitution and thus shows respect to the many lives spent in the decades long transformation of Iran from the reign of the Shah, the Ayatollahs, to the Green revolutionaries and beyond towards future possibilities. Asaadi’s study is firmly grounded in Iran’s past and present and thus does not fall victim to wishful thinking but rather offers hope gained by application of the art of the possible. Postrevolutionary Iran: the Leader, the People, and the Three Powers is a book that should be read by foreign policy specialists and area specialists as it will help in both understanding Iran’s past behavior and usefully guide those concerned about productively engaging Iran in ways that will strengthen mutual respect. Last but by no means least, Dr. Asaadi’s book is well organized, readable, and timely. A must read.
Revolutionary and authoritarian governments rule through institutional structures that are partly inherited and partly of their own making. This important and compelling book explores the evolution of postrevolutionary Iran's formal and informal institutions from 1979 to the present. Asaadi argues that the Iranian regime should not be understood as a resolute autocracy but in light of the possibilities for change embedded in its constitutional order. It is essential reading for scholars of Iranian and Middle Eastern politics, authoritarian rule and democratization.
Asaadi has written an extremely informative and illuminating account on the creation and evolution of the Islamic Republic of Iran's political institutions since the 1979 Revolution. He adopts a multifaceted and sophisticated approach and provides an empirically rich analysis of the domestic and foreign policies of Iran and their interplay. His nuanced and comprehensive study also tries to look at the future prospects of the Islamic Republic and avoids the simplistic binary that the Islamic Republican system will either collapse or remain unchanged in terms of its structure and policies. Asaadi sheds new light on the evolution of Iran's political system and its implications. His book is a welcome contribution to the study of Iran, the Middle East and political science.
In this compelling analysis of the Iranian state, Asaadi uncovers the prevailing tendencies of the country's religio-political governance since the 1979 revolution and argues for both the inevitability and limits of reform. At the same time, Postrevolutionary Iran boldly challenges the reductive notion that Iran is an outlier in comparison with other postrevolutionary states of the twentieth century.