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Iran's Political, Demographic, and Economic Vulnerabilities

Iran's Political, Demographic, and Economic Vulnerabilities

Keith Crane
Rollie Lal
Jeffrey Martini
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 156
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Iran's Political, Demographic, and Economic Vulnerabilities
    Book Description:

    Iran is one of the United States' most important foreign policy concerns. It has also been an extraordinarily difficult country with which to engage. Ironically, while the leadership has been hostile to the United States, Iranian society has evolved in ways friendly to the United States and U.S. interests. This monograph assesses current political, ethnic, demographic, and economic trends and vulnerabilities in Iran. For example, the numbers of young people entering the Iranian labor force are at an all-time high. The authors then provide recommendations for U.S. policies that might foster trends beneficial to U.S. interests. For example, greater use of markets and a more-vibrant private sector would contribute to the development of sources of political power independent from the current regime. The authors finally note a need for patience. Even if favorable trends take root, it will take time for them to come to fruition.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4527-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

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. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. Glossary
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Iran’s position among key U.S. policy concerns has ratcheted upward over the past few years. The country appears to be on its way to becoming a nuclear power in the world’s most volatile and violent region. Iran has been heavily engaged in Iraq, providing political and financial support for Shi’a groups, including those that oppose the U.S. presence. Iran is the source of key components of explosively formed projectiles, a highly lethal type of roadside bomb that has killed large numbers of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Iran’s government has confronted the United States, Israel, and Western Europe over a broad...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Domestic Politics
    (pp. 7-36)

    Iran’s political system remains a paradox in the Middle East. Iran is a country that has experienced an Islamic revolution, yet has institutionalized many democratic principles. Ultimate power remains in the hands of its clerical elite. The religious leadership controls the entry of all individuals into political positions, barring from political positions anyone who questions the legitimacy of the current system and the position of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini. Informal networks dominated by the clerical elite make decisions that circumvent the formal government bureaucracy.

    At the same time, the citizens of Iran elect the members of the Majlis, the...

  11. CHAPTER THREE The Challenge of Ethnicity and Identity Politics
    (pp. 37-58)

    Iran’s modern political history is replete with attempts to consolidate a single Iranian national identity that eclipses ethnic and tribal loyalties. In the Pahlavi era, this took place under the shah’s modernization program, which extended the central government’s administrative control to the periphery and promoted the Persian language and Persian culture to the exclusion of those of Iran’s minority groups. The Islamic Revolution took a different tack but with a similar bent, emphasizing a religious identity that was by definition supranational and supraethnic but that, like the “Persianization” campaign of the Pahlavis, refused to recognize the heterogeneity within Iran. Simultaneously,...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Demographic Change
    (pp. 59-66)

    Although Iran is part of the Middle East, the sheer size of its population separates it from most other countries in the region. In 2007, the Middle East, excluding Iran and Turkey, was home to 128.8 million people.¹ Iran’s population was 65.4 million, over one-half the total for the rest of the region. Iran’s population is more than double those of Iraq or Saudi Arabia, its two largest Arab neighbors. The governments of both of these countries have found these population differences to be of concern for the regional balance of power.

    But the rate of Iran’s population growth has...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Economic Development and Vulnerabilities
    (pp. 67-104)

    This chapter examines Iran’s current and likely future economic vulnerabilities, looking for economic pressure points the United States might use to attain its policy goals vis-à-vis Iran. We first assess the weaknesses and strengths of Iran’s energy sector, evaluate its role in the Iranian economy, and consider how that role is likely to change between now and 2017. Next, we evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the Iranian economy and assess the economy’s major players, elucidating the roles of the state,bonyads,bazaaris, and other actors. Then, we evaluate the efficacy of Iran’s recent economic policies. Following...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Iranian Vulnerabilities and Implications for U.S. Policies
    (pp. 105-120)

    This chapter briefly recaps the vulnerabilities (or lack thereof) that the Iranian regime faces. We then assess the likely repercussions of military actions against Iran for the economic and political environments in which the regime operates. We conclude with a set of modest policy recommendations that might serve to nudge the Iranian leadership toward less-antagonistic policies toward the United States by supporting ongoing changes in Iranian society, assuming military actions are avoided.

    Because of its ability to mediate among differing political forces and the importance it gives to democratic forms, the Iranian regime has successfully diffused political pressures for systemic...

  15. References
    (pp. 121-128)