Reflections on Iran’s Islamic Republic

[February 11th marked] the Islamic Republic of Iran’s 31st anniversary and so offers an appropriate moment both to reflect on its works and speculate about its future.

Looking at achievements, the Khomeinist regime has survived great challenges – especially an eight-year war with Iraq – and succeeded in forwarding its Islamist agenda. By exploiting many tools – religion, subversion, terrorism, carbohydrates, and potential WMD – it has become the world’s foremost security threat.

Beyond this hard shell, however, one discovers deep vulnerabilities. Domestically, there’s impoverishment, rampant inflation , drug addiction , and human trafficking , and what one analyst calls the country’s "galloping demographic decline." These problems have inspired widespread alienation from Islamism and even from Islam itself, devastating street protests, and a split in the regime’s leadership.

Internationally, the regime’s bellicose stance has both split the Middle East and spawned enmity around the globe. In particular, its nuclear-weapons buildup could trigger an unprecedented world crisis.

Looking ahead, if the regime’s days are indubitably numbered, the agency of its demise remains unclear: millions on Iranian streets, a Revolutionary Guards coup d’état , American aircraft, or an Israeli electromagnetic pulse bomb ?

However it dies, Khomeini’s creation has yet to deliver its full measure of death and destruction.

Daniel Pipes

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Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, including Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (Transaction Publishers), from which this column derives.

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