05 July 2009

Amin Saikal on Iran

The Australian Financial Review’s Review section for Friday 3 July contains an excellent piece (Fault Lines) on the current situation in Iran, by Professor Amin Saikal, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University. Professor Saikal is author of The Rise and Fall of the Shah: Iran from Autocracy to Religious Rule, Princeton University Press, 2009.

Professor Saikal’s key message is summed up in his first paragraph:

The Iranian Shiite Islamic regime is wounded – although not fatally – by the way it has handled the dispute over the June 12 presidential election. It has bitterly alienated not only a sizeable proportion of the population but also many of its ranking Islamist supporters whose continued backing it needs in order to maintain its coherence and effectiveness. The regime’s legitimacy is eroded such that it will be increasingly difficult to ensure its effectiveness in coping with the daunting domestic and foreign policy challenges facing it, including those arising from President Barack Obama’s call for improved relations with Iran in particular and the Muslim world in general. Unless it modifies its authoritarian Islamist mindset and power structure to claw back some, if not all, of its lost support, it may not be able to, in the long run, avoid the fate of its predecessor, the pro-Western regime of the Shah, whose autocratic regime was toppled in the mass revolution of 1978-79.

Professor Saikal goes on to describe in a very accessible manner Ayatollah Khomeini’s vision of a Shi’ite Islamic political system, and how the factions and forces moving within the leadership of this system have shaped the current situation.

Unfortunately it is not possible to provide a link from which the whole article can be viewed; the Financial Review works on a business model which holds that its fame will spread if it confines access to those who subscribe to the newspaper or the site; there does not even appear to be a pay-per-view option. This link takes you to the Review’s home page.

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