Mullahs, Guards, and Bonyads

Mullahs, Guards, and Bonyads: An Exploration of Iranian Leadership Dynamics

David E. Thaler
Alireza Nader
Shahram Chubin
Jerrold D. Green
Charlotte Lynch
Frederic Wehrey
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 168
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Mullahs, Guards, and Bonyads
    Book Description:

    The U.S. ability to "read" the Iranian regime and formulate appropriate policies has been weakened by lack of access to the country and by the opacity of decisionmaking in Tehran. To improve understanding of Iran's political system, the authors describe Iranian strategic culture; investigate Iran's informal networks, formal government institutions, and personalities; assess the impact of elite behavior on Iranian policy; and summarize key trends.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4930-8
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Summary
    (pp. xi-xx)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Leadership Dynamics in the Islamic Republic of Iran
    (pp. 1-4)

    Since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2005, Iran’s regional ambitions and its confrontation with the international community over its nuclear program have made it one of the most pressing foreign-policy issues for the United States. The Islamic Republic is widely assumed to be pursuing a nuclearweapon capability, and its influence in the Persian Gulf region, Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere appears to be on the rise. Iran poses a significant challenge to U.S. interests and to those of U.S. allies in the region. After reviewing a range of global threats, the 2006...

  9. CHAPTER TWO Assertiveness and Caution in Iranian Strategic Culture
    (pp. 5-20)

    The elites of the Islamic Republic perceive Iran to be the natural, indispensable, and leading power of the Middle East, or even the Muslim world. Iran’s perception of its own unique centrality is informed by a strong sense of Iranian identity and awareness of the country’s role as one of the region’s historical powers. From the time of the first Persian Empire (550–330 BC) to the present era, Iran has played a vital role in shaping the Middle East, but it has also been shaped by outside forces. Although Iran ceased to be a great power in the 18th...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Formal Structures of the Islamic Republic
    (pp. 21-36)

    With Iran’s history and strategic culture as our background, we turn now to the structural and institutional factors that influence debates, policymaking, and policy implementation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The formal context serves as a backdrop to the intense, often brutal political environment that is dominated by factional competition and informal networks, a topic we discuss in Chapter Four. The aim of this chapter is to review Iran’s major institutions and the formal powers accorded to them by the constitution.¹ Perhaps most significant is the clear disparity between the official authority of these political organs and the actual...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Factionalism and the Primacy of Informal Networks
    (pp. 37-74)

    After leading the revolution that brought down the Shah in the spring of 1979, Khomeini led the struggle of transforming Iran into an Islamic Republic while consolidating his own power among the various revolutionary groups. The process of building a new form of government was not straightforward, and there were conflicting views among revolutionaries from across the political spectrum about the appropriate nature of the new regime. But Khomeini and the Islamist revolutionaries who supported him were also keenly aware of and motivated by Iran’s long and bitter experiences with foreign (especially U.S. and British) domination of the country’s internal...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE The Nexus of Domestic Politics and Policymaking in Iran
    (pp. 75-114)

    Having reviewed Iran’s strategic culture, the formal constitutional framework of the Iranian regime, and the informal networks that drive leadership dynamics in Tehran, we assess in this chapter how these dynamics work in the context of foreign- and domestic-policy issues critical to the Islamic Republic.

    Iran’s foreign policy has often been shaped by the political and ideological conflicts between various factions, particularly since the death of Khomeini in 1989. This process has produced both periods of pragmatism and moderation in Iran’s approach to the outside world and, conversely, periods of confrontation and defiance. (The presidency of Ahmadinejad has ushered in...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Conclusion: Power and Politics in the Islamic Republic
    (pp. 115-126)

    In the preceding chapters, we explored the strategic culture of the elite in the Islamic Republic of Iran, described the formal institutions of government, examined the informal power centers and relationships that define Iranian policymaking, and assessed the role of factionalism in changes in key foreign- and domestic-policy arenas. In this concluding chapter, we summarize the most-important findings of our research.

    The political system and decisionmaking processes of the Islamic Republic are commonly described as “opaque” by Western observers of Iran. These observers note that even Iranians themselves—particularly thegheyr-e khodi, the majority of the population—have difficulty making...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 127-144)