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Study Guide for Iran Test


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What is unique about Iran's geography and population?
Iran is situated on a massive plateau, thousands of feet in elevation higher than its neighbors. Very little of Iran's land is used or suitable for growing crops. Its population of 80 million is very large and also very young.
Why did a split occur between the Sunnis and Shias?
a dispute over succession to Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community, supporters of Abu, one of Mohammed's closest companions, became the Sunnis, those of Ali, Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law, the Shiites
Explain the influence of the rule of the Safavids in Iran.
The Safavids conquered Iran in the 16th century and forcibly converted their subjects to Shi'ism Islam, enforcing a particular version called Twelver Shi'ism which teaches that the twelfth descendant of Muhammad who mysteriously disappeared will one day return to judge the world and rid it of evil. Now, more than 90% of Iran remains Shi'a.
Explain the influence of the rule of the Qajars in Iran.
Under the Qajars, separation of church and state began to emerge, as well as imperialism. They were the first to rent drilling rights for oil to a British company, and began borrowing heavily from European banks, driving up debt. The Qajars continued selling assets of the empire as economic troubles continued.
Identify the democratic elements of the Constitution of 1906.
The elected representative assembly called the Majlis
Identify the theocratic elements of the Constitution of 1906.
The Guardian Council of Shia clerics with the power to review and veto the laws passed by the Majlis.
Describe the rule of Reza Shah and Muhammad Reza Shah.
Reza Shah was an absolute monarch, modernizing Iran, ruled with an iron fist, and increasingly reducing the role of the Majlis until it no longer acted as a functional political check of any kind. Muhammad Reza Shah took power after his father's abdication, fostered a more authoritarian regime by forming SAVAK.
Who supported the Shah? Who did not?
The US supported the Shah, as well as those who supported westernization. The Tudeh Party (Party of the Masses) which was an Iranian communist party, and the National Front led by Mohammad Mossadeq were the Shah's strongest opposition. By the end of his reign, most middle and lower class Iranians opposed him.
Identify policies by the Shah that led to increased secularization in Iran.
Muhammad Reza Shah westernized and secularized Iranian culture through the White Revolution, where he gave cleric land to peasants, extended women's rights, reduced clerical influence, and built a modern Iranian judicial system modeled on the West, increasing secularization.
Describe the causes of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Alienation of the Shia clerics and the religious community through forced westernization, alienation of Iranian liberals opposed to social injustice of the lavish lifestyle of the elites, and the increasing autocratic nature of the regime, overly ambitious promises made during the White Revolution to deliver prosperity to more Iranians which could not be fulfilled, rising Iranian nationalism opposed to the influence of Britain and the United States, and a sharp and sudden economic contraction in 1977-1978 which drove working class Iranians to go on strike an take to the streets in protest.
What role did Ayatollah Khomeini play in the revolution?
The charismatic leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, a leading cleric, to unite religious, liberal, and working class forces together against the regime motivated Iranian protesters, contributing to the massive demonstration on a major Islamic holiday in which 200,000 and 500,000 protestors marched through the streets of Tehran.
Can you make comparisons to revolutions in Russia and China?
Much like revolutions in both Russia and China, the government of Iran repressed protestors by declaring martial law and banning demonstrations. Similarly in Russia, a bill was passed that outlawed demonstrators to stand within 50 feet of each other after protests began in an attempt to reduce dissent.
Explain the consequences of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
The Shah was forced to leave Iran and he never returned. The exiled Khomeini returned to Iran and appointed his own government to compete with the existing authorities. He staged a referendum of the Iranian people asking if the monarchy should be abolished and replaced with an Islamic government, resulting in 98% voting in favor.
Describe the regime before and after revolution.
Before the revolution, the country was led by a sole monarch. After the revolution, the country established a new constitution, placed Ayatollah Khomeini as Supreme Leader, instituted Jurist's Guardianship, and ruled that only senior clerics could interpret Sharia Law.
How does the outcome of the revolution compare to revolutions in Russia/China?
Cleansing of Western values, anticapitalist, revised education, purged political enemies, reinforced political legitimacy, affirmed revolutionary ideals and values, promoted ideological conformity, repressed dissent, attacked middle class, discrediting the past/old order, elevated the status of the leader, further developing his cult of personality
Explain how the Ayatollah was able to institutionalize the Islamic concept of jurist guardianship.
He created the Assembly of Religious Experts who drafted the new Iranian constitution, which centered power in the Islamic concept of jurist guardianship, the idea that the chief interpreters of Islam, the high-ranking clerics such as Khomeini, needed to be responsible for all aspects of Iranian society. This power would be vested in the Supreme Leader, who would be elected by the Assembly of Religious Experts who naturally chose Ayatollah Khomeini as the first Supreme Leader.
Constitution of 1979: Does it set up a theocratic state? What features are democratic? What features are not?
The Constitution of 1979 sets up an Islamic theocracy. The democratic feature of protecting the equal rights of all people of Iran is set up in the Constitution of 1979. A non-democratic feature is that constitutional provisions are required to be in conformity with Islamic criteria.
Identify the political system in Iran. Unitary/Federal? Authoritarian?
Iran is a unitary system. Iran is neither completely authoritarian nor completely democratic, but a curious hybrid of both.
Define theocracy.
A form of government in which a country is ruled by religious leaders.
Describe institutions/leaders that represent religion in Iran. What are their purpose/powers?
The theocratic state institutions are the Supreme Leader, the Guardian Council, the Expediency Council, and the Assembly of Religious Experts.
Describe institutions in Iran for which members are directly elected by citizens. What are their purpose/powers?
Iranians directly elect the members of three national level institutions: the president, the Majlis/Parliament, and the Assembly of Religious Experts.
Identify the Dual Executive in Iran.
the President and the Supreme Leader are the dual executives.
Who is the Head of State (title and current leader)?
The Supreme Leader, currently Ali Khamenei is the Head of State.
Who is the Head of Government (title and current leader)?
The President, currently Hassan Rouhani is the Head of Government.
What is the Supreme Leader and the President's relationship to one another? Who holds the power?
The president possesses many administrative powers, but his actions are always under the shadow of the Supreme Leader, who may dismiss him from office at any moment he chooses.
How does the executive compare to other countries we've studied?
The dual executive system is very unique, but has some similar characteristics to the parliamentary system where a prime minister and a president or monarch share power. Iran's executive is unlike any other in that the Supreme Leader is the most powerful figure and is directly connected to religion, unlike in Britain where the leader with religious ties has only limited symbolic and ceremonial powers.
Explain the significance of the Supreme Leader.
The Supreme Leader is the chief jurist, the leading interpreter of Islamic (Sharia) law for the Shia people.
How is the Supreme Leader chosen? What are his qualifications? How did they change after Khomeini's death in 1989?
The Supreme Leader is chosen by the clerics who make up the Assembly of Religious Experts. The Supreme Leader must have immense knowledge of Islam and the government of Iran, typically the Supreme Leader is the highest-ranking cleric, but lower-ranking clerics are now allowed as a result of Khomeini's death. Khomeini was not pleased with any of the marja (leading high ranking clerics who are prepared to become the new Supreme Leader) so the Constitution was altered to make it possible for less academically credentialed clerics to take this position, such as Ali Khamenei.
What is the length of the Supreme Leader's term?
The Supreme Leader serves for life.
Does the Supreme Leader have a term limit?
There is no term limit for the Supreme Leader.
What are the Supreme Leader's powers?
The Supreme Leader can dismiss the president or members of the Guardian Council for any reason, command all branches of the Iranian military, declare war and peace, appoint administrators and judges at all levels of the Iranian government, choose six of the twelve members of the Guardian Council, and appoint heads of all state-owned enterprises, including media outlets.
Are there any checks on the Supreme Leader's power?
The Assembly of Religious Experts can remove the Supreme Leader.
Explain the role of the President.
The President is the head of government and possesses many administrative powers.
How is the President chosen?
The President is elected but must first be vetted by the Guardian Council. Presidential candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council in order to appear on the ballot.
What is the length of the President's term?
The President has a 4 year term length.
Does the President have a term limit?
The President can serve no more than 2 consecutive terms or more than 8 years.
What are the President's powers?
The President has the power to devise the budget for approval of the Majlis, propose legislation to the Majlis, nominate Cabinet members for approval of the Majlis, chair meetings of the Cabinet, the National Security Council, and the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, send and receive foreign ambassadors, issue executive orders, and issue pardons for crimes.
Are there any checks on the President's power?
The Supreme Leader may dismiss him from office at any moment he chooses.
Describe the role of the bureaucracy in Iran.
Iran's bureaucracy is massive and employs millions of Iranians. In addition to the typical functions of bureaucratic approval and enforcement of laws, Iranian bureaucracy also manages many of the large state-owned enterprises and monitors access to information for the purposes of the theocracy.
Describe the role of religious leadership in Iran. How much accountability do they have?
The Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council are responsible for interpreting Sharia law and leading Iran in terms of Islam. They have barely any checks on their power and are not often accountable. The Supreme Leader is often the cause of instability in Iran.
Identify Iran's legislature as unicameral or bicameral.
Iran's legislature is unicameral.
How are members of the legislature chosen?
A single-member district election system is used to democratically elect members of the Majlis. Candidates up for election are vetted by the Guardian Council.
What are the lengths of the members of the legislatures' terms?
Members of the Majlis are up for election every 4 years
Do the members of the legislature have term limits?
No there are no term limits for members of the Majlis, but the Guardian Council can choose to not put a candidate on the ballot, thus ending their term.
What powers does the legislature have?
The legislature has the power to introduce and pass legislation (although most is proposed by the president), approve the six members of the Guardian Council nominated by the Chief Judge, investigate corruption and misconduct in the bureaucracy and judiciary, approve the president's choices for Cabinet, and remove Cabinet members, and to approve the budget devised by the president.
Are there any checks on the legislature's power?
The laws passed by the Majlis must keep the approval of the Guardian Council, otherwise the Guardian Council can reject the laws. The Guardian Council can control which members are on the ballot, thus controlling the makeup of the legislature.
What is the relationship between the Majlis and the Guardian Council?
Disputes between the Majlis and Guardian Council are settled by the Expediency Council, which was created in 1988 as a means to better the relationship between them. The Expediency Council gives the Majlis an opportunity to correct a law the Guardian Council rejects, and if the two are unable to work out an agreement, the Expediency Council resolves the dispute.
Describe the relationship between the government and the military. Who holds the power?
The Supreme Leader acts as Commander-in-Chief of the military
What role has the military played in Iran?
The armed forces protect new leaders and institutions, fight those opposing the regime, and control volunteer militias.
What role do the Revolutionary Guards play?
Revolutionary Guards initially defended the new regime and destroyed rival groups, but recently has become more independent and more of a direct player in Iranian domestic and international affairs.
Describe the role of the judiciary, including the status of judicial review.
Iranian courts do not possess any power of judicial review, as this power is associated with interpretation of the Sharia law, a power held by the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council. The courts are highly decentralized, with a Chief Judge overseeing their administration of cases. The judiciary believes that the spirit of Sharia law was for local judges to decide cases most often, so national level courts are not as widely used.
What makes the judiciary in Iran unique compared to the countries in the AP6 that we've studied?
The element of special types of law being implemented and enforced in Iran make the judiciary unique in comparison to the United Kingdom, Russia, and China. Sharia law acts as the supreme law of the system, as interpreted by the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council. Civil law (qanun) has no basis in sacred texts or Sharia interpretation, and covers all aspects of modern life regarding business, labor, and the environment, which is mainly the Majlis's job to enact.
What relationship does the Judiciary have to other institutions in Iran?
The judiciary works closely with the Supreme Leader and with the Guardian Council in order to best interpret Sharia law.
Identify ethnic groups in Iran, including majority/minority groups.
The majority ethnic group in Iran is Persian Iranians, who account for 51% of the population. The Azeri account for 24% and live in the NW. Some other ethnic minority groups include the Gilaki, Mazandarani, Kurds, and the Arabi.
How has Iran addressed minority groups?
The Constitution is accommodating towards minority groups, but the government has not always followed through with their constitutional promises. The Azeris seem to be better integrated than other minorities, and play a larger role in Iranian high-level politics than the other non-Persians. One of the major presidential candidates from 2009, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, was Azeri. The Rouhani government has promised to better involve ethnic minorities in its political decisions, and gave assurance that language protections would remain in place for schools in minority regions.
Identify social cleavages in Iran. Classify them as coinciding or cross-cutting.
Iranian social cleavages include age, ethnicity, religion, and social class.
Which minority religious groups are officially recognized by the state? Which are not?
The Constitution recognizes Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians as religious minorities. Baha'i are not officially recognized by the state, but are officially persecuted by the state.
How has the age breakdown impacted Iran's development?
After the revolution, the regime encouraged the formation of large families and early marriage, and gave benefits to citizens based on family size. Economic pressures forces these policies to change in favor of birth control and sex education in the 1990s. Today, more than 50% of the population are under 35 years old, and they are very politically active. Older Iranians are more likely to support the current regime, but young Iranians are concerned with the lack of jobs available and religious restrictions. The youth vote swings reformist and has helped reshape the Iranian political landscape.
Describe the role of women in Iran, in both government and society. In which areas have women made gains? In which areas have women been restricted?
Women's role in society has swung back and forth between traditional and reformist depending on the leadership, which is particularly seen in the enforcement of the hijab. During his westernization effort, the Shah forbade the wearing of the hijab in public, and police would force women to remove it. After the revolution, the hijab was required attire. Women eventually grew to test the boundaries of the hijab requirement, but often faced punishments from Iranian police. About a third of the Iranian labor force is female, 60% of university students in Iran were women until a conservative policy was enacted in 2012 that ensured the genders were equally balanced.
Describe population policies in Iran over time. How do they compare with China?
In the beginning, the state encouraged people to have large families by giving larger shares of rationed goods to larger families. When the population grew too big for comfort given the state's dependence on oil, President Rafsanjani urged the use of family planning services, contraceptives, and sex education to reduce the number of babies being born. Recently Khamenei has described contraceptive services as wrong, and Iran seems to be gutting the services provided for the previous 24 years. China has been more consistently loosening their one-child policy in recent years, where Iran has begun to make their policies less family-friendly.
Identify forms of political participation in Iran, including the role of political parties, voting, interest groups, protests, NGOs, and civil society.
Civil society has been suppressed in nearly all sectors, including unions, teachers, human rights groups, lawyers, doctors, women, academics, and journalists. Protests have become an increasingly common method for frustrated supporters of liberalization to voice their opposition to the regime. The most notable protest in recent years is the Green Movement, which was born in protest to the alleged rigging of the 2009 presidential election to discourage Mir Hossein Moussavi from beating Ahmadinejad's reelection. For the most part, political parties are fluid and temporary, but are all rooted as either conservative or reformist based. There are no stable enduring political parties.
What type of electoral system does Iran have?
For president, Iran uses a two-ballot majority system every four years. For the Majlis, Iran is divided into 290 single-member-district constituencies, each of which elects a member in a first-past-the-post plurality system. A candidate for the Majlis must get at least 25% to win, otherwise a second round of voting must occur. The Guardian Council exercises a tremendous amount of control over who runs for the Majlis!
Describe the role of the media/press/censorship in Iran, both historically and currently.
There is a balance of privately owned and state owned media in al formats, but the media is subject to significant censorship. The government can revoke the license of any media outlet from publishing material considered anti-religious, slanderous, or detrimental to the national interest.
Describe the factors that shape political culture in Iran.
Political culture in Iran is shaped by authoritarian influences, the union of political and religious leadership, Sharia law, and an ongoing east vs. west rivalry.
Describe major economic policies, both historically and currently.
Iran's economy is heavily dependent upon oil and gas, which are responsible for over 60% of the government's revenue.
Define a rentier (rent-seeking) state. Describe a problem that a rentier state typically faces that has an impact on economic development.
A rentier state is a state which derives all or a substantial portion of its national revenues from the rent of indigenous resources to external clients. A problem that occurs in rentier states such as Iran is that the importance of the main exports has disincentivized the country from diversifying its economy into other industries and has dampened overall development. Also, global drops in product value directly cause recessions in the rentier state, hindering economic stability.
Classify Iran's Presidents from a conservative vs. reformist standpoint: Rafsanjani, Khatami, Ahmadinejad, Rouhani.
Rafsanjani and Khatami were reformists. Ahmadinejad was conservative. Rouhani is conservative but is also open to change and a bit of reform.
How have Conservative and Reformist leaders clashed in terms of their view on economic development?
Conservative and reformist leaders clashed in their opinion on westernization and opening up trade with western nations.
Describe current major public policy issues in Iran today as well as policymaking factions within Iran.
Some major public policy issues in Iran include gender, economics and oil, population, Qom and Twelver Shi'ism, and foreign relations and the nuclear program.
What impact do these issues have on the political and/or economic development of Iran?
These issues often hinder the political development of Iran. Gender boundaries in Iran restrict women from being a part in politics and from expressing themselves freely. Iran's dependence on selling its oil reduces its ability to diversify its economic success into other sectors. Its young population does not routinely stay interested in politics when there is not a reformist president in office. Iran needs to find a way to incorporate the youth into politics, as well as find them jobs. The unemployment rate in Iran is around 10%, and many young people are struggling to find jobs. The need to find balance between isolationism and opening trade up to the West is increasingly important as the Nuclear Deal is being deliberated with the US.