on 17 September 2010
For anyone seeking an understanding of the dynamics of Iranian politics, After Khomeini provides perhaps the most scholarly account this reader has yet encountered.
Beginning with an overview of Khomeini's life and political endeavors, Arjomand proceeds to chronicle the evolving nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as it transferred from the dual leadership of Rafsanjani and Khamenei proceeding Khomeini's death, the eventual foundering of Rafsanjani's pragmatic approach, the rise and neutering of the reform movement under Khatami, to the now almost complete consolidation of power under the current alliance of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, and the Revolutionary Guards.
Arjomand identifies the central issue as Khomeini's doctrine of Velayati Faqih, the Guardianship of the Marjah. Khomeini only solidified this idea at the 11th hour, along with his purging of his previous heir apparent, the late Montazeri. This has remained the bone of contention for the ensuing two decades, with reformists focused on limiting this doctrine, and in turn allowing greater freedoms of expression and participation.
Arjomand describes the "Sultanization" of Iran under Khamenei, as Khamenei's leadership has come to resemble a monarchy more than a Republic, echoing the words of the late Ayatollah Montazeri that the Iranian regime is "neither Islamic nor a Republic."
While written shortly after the June 2009 putsch by Ahmadinejad and the Basij militia, Arjomand asserts that Khamenei's support for this debacle may have been a bridge too far, and the current system cannot long outlast Khamenei, and the possibility of his dismissal by the Assembly of Experts is not altogether removed.
However, Arjomand raises the specter of a worse alternative, a possible wholesale take over by the Revolutionary Guard.
A book dealing primarily with internal politics, although featuring a very informative chapter on foreign policy, After Khomeini is a highly informative and dynamic account of the nature of Iran's regime. Not quite as enjoyable and inspiring as Ray Takeyh's Guardian's of the Revolution, but a very informative account recommended for anybody seeking a better understanding of Iran's hydra headed regime.