Democracy in iran

I. Introduction

Iran or Islamic Republic of Iran is a country of southwestern Asia. Until 1935, it was known in the West as Persia. Iran is bounded by the Soviet Union, the Caspian Sea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and Turkey.  The area is about 636, 300 square miles (1, 648, 000 km2).

This paper scrutinizes the problems & prospects of democracy in Iran.

II. Discussion

A.    Government

Iran is an Islamic republic, meaning that the government is guided by the precepts of Islam. Under the constitution of 1979, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government are under the supreme authority of Iran’s chief religious leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A president, directly elected for a four-year term, serves as head of state. The head of government is the prime minister, who is chosen by the president. Members of the legislature, the Majlis, are elected for four-year terms (Keddie & Hooglund, 2002).

B. History After 1935

Iran is the native name of Persia. In 1935, the shah (king), Riza Khan Pahlavi, insisted the country be called “ Iran” by other nations. At the outbreak of World War II, Iran announced its neutrality, but the shah was believed to be pro-German. The Allies feared Germany might seize Iran’s oil resources, and at the same time a supply route to the Soviet Union was badly needed. In 1941, Great Britain and the Soviet Union attacked Iran, quickly overcoming resistance. The shah abdicated in favor of Crown Prince Mohammed Riza Pahlavi. United States troops entered Iran in 1942. The Allies made the Trans-Iranian Railway a major supply route to the Soviet Union. During 1943, Iran declared war on Germany and Allied leaders Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin met at Tehran (Irving, 1999).

At the end of the war, Iran became one of the first areas of cold war conflict, when the Soviet Union, which had set up a secessionist regime in the province of Azerbaijan, refused to withdraw troops being removed in 1946. Iranian forces then moved into Azerbaijan, putting an end to the secessionist attempt.

In 1951, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh nationalized the oil industry. In 1953, he forced the shah into exile but was overthrown by the shah’s supporters within a week. The shah, who previously had been little more than a figurehead, then began to exercise his full authority.

During the 1960’s, the shah instituted wide-ranging economic, political, and social reforms. Huge estates were broken up and the land distributed to the peasants. New programs helped develop industry, improve health conditions, and increase educational opportunities. Women were given equal rights with men. Opposition to the reforms led the shah to suspend parliamentary government, 1916-63, and to suppress all opposition (Daniel, 2001).

In 1967, with prosperity increasing and political stability restored, the shah allowed himself to be formally crowned, 26 years after he came to the throne. The 2, 500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire was celebrated in 1971, 10 years after the actual anniversary date.

During the 1970’s, large increases in oil prices made it possible for the shah to accelerate the modernization of Iran and to build up the country’s military strength on a massive scale. In 1978, protests over the opposition came from conservative religious leaders, led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who opposed modernization because it was contrary to traditional Islamic ways. Many opponents, however, some of them socialists and Communists, demanded a more equal distribution of wealth and an end to dictatorial rule (Irving, 1999).

In 1979, the shah lost the support of the army and his regime collapsed. He went into exile and the Ayatollah Khomeini became ruler. When the shah visited the United States for medical treatment in October, 1979, militants seized the American embassy in Tehran and its personnel, demanding that the United States turn over the shah in exchange for the release of the hostages. The United States refused and a diplomatic crisis ensued. The shah died (of natural causes) in July, 1980, but the hostages were not released until January, 1981.

C. Economy

After the World War II, especially during the 1960’s and 1070’s, much was done by the government to transform Iran into a modern, industrial nation. Industrial expansion and diversification were actively pursued, as was land reform. The rapid rise in world petroleum prices in the 1970’s and large Iranian oil exports provided the nation with enormous amounts of money to invest. Industrial growth and rapid change resulted in social and religious unrest and a revolution in 1979. Growth of the economy has subsequently slowed, partly because of a prolonged war with Iraq (Bakhash, 2004).

· Agriculture

Agriculture provides a livelihood for most Iranian but contributes only a small part of the gross national product (GNP). Farming methods are generally centuries-old, and total output is relatively low. Only about 5 to 6 percent of the land is used for grazing livestock. Much more of Iran could be cultivated if water for irrigation were available. The construction of dams and irrigation systems has been a major undertaking by the government.

Wheat, barley, rice, and other grains are Iran’s chief crops. Sugar beets and sugarcane are also grown in large amounts, as are vegetables and fruits. Other crops include cotton, tea, and tobacco. After poultry, the most numerous farm animals are sheep, goats, and cattle. Many of the sheep and goats are herded by nomads in the drier parts of Iran (Marlowe, 2003).

· Mining

Petroleum and natural gas are Iran’s principal mineral resources. Iran has about one-twelfth of the world’s leading producers. Natural gas reserves are second only to those of the Soviet Union, but production is still relatively low. The crude and refined petroleum accounts for most of Iran’s foreign exchange. Production is mostly from wells in or near the head of the Persian Gulf. Many other minerals, including coal and ores of iron, chromium, copper, lead, and zinc, are beginning to be mined on a large scale (Binder, 2002).

· Manufacturing

]Iran’s manufacturing industries contribute substantially to the economy. The chief activities are petroleum refining and the making of petrochemicals. One of the world’s largest refineries is at Abadan at the head of the Persian Gulf. At Isfahan is a large steel plant, and Ahvaz has rolling mills and other cities. Motor vehicles, electrical appliances, and a wide variety of food and household items are also produced (Irving, 1999).

· Transportation

Rugged mountains and barren deserts make transportation difficult in Iran. There are few roads or railways in the east; most of the transport network focuses on Tehran. From there, railways and roads extend to the principal cities and the Persian Gulf. Pipelines link the major oil fields and refineries and serve the chief domestic markets. Khark Island is the site of one of the Persian Gulf’s main petroleum export terminals. Iran Air is the government-owned airline. Tehran and Abadan have large international airports (Frye, 2000).

IV. Conclusion

Iran is an Islamic country that had undergone turmoil from its leaders but had survived. These two countries are rich in natural resources and continuously growing in every area of their economy, education and language and religion.

In September, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran in an attempt to regain border territory it had ceded in 1975. After Iran drove Iraqi forces out of most of the invaded territory in 1982, the war turned into a stalemate. A cease-fire went into effect in 1988. Khomeini died in 1989 (Hiro, 2001).