Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, November 14, 2014

Valuable teaching tool

A couple weeks ago, the November 1 issue of The Economist arrived and I began reading its special report on Iran. I didn't finish it and put the magazine on a pile of other reading material where it was buried.

I found it again. I'm really glad I did.

Once you get through teaching/learning about Iran's history, regime, and political culture, put your textbook aside and hand out copies of this collection of articles. (Reuse options can be reviewed here.)

A note at the end of the report says that reprints can be ordered for $7.00 a copy, but that discounts are available for classroom sets. Contact Jill Kaletha of Foster Printing Service.

The revolution is over: After decades of messianic fervour, Iran is becoming a more mature and modern country, says Oliver August
The regime may remain suspicious of the West, and drone on about seeding revolutions in oppressor countries, but the revolutionary fervour and drab conformism have gone. Iran is desperate to trade with whomever will buy its oil. Globalisation trumps puritanism even here…

Yet although revolutionary fervour has waned, Iran’s 1979 revolution itself remains a source of legitimacy for the regime. Many Iranians, or at least the ethnic Persian majority among them, continue to associate it with national liberation from foreign oppression…
Take it or leave it: Ordinary Iranians are losing interest in the mosque
Iran is the modern world’s first and only constitutional theocracy. It is also one of the least religious countries in the Middle East. Islam plays a smaller role in public life today than it did a decade ago… Whereas secular Arab leaders suppressed Islam for decades and thus created a rallying point for political grievances, in Iran the opposite happened…
Rush to the centre: Iran’s political elite maintains a delicate balance
Iran’s political system is neither a free-flowing democracy nor a monolithic dictatorship…. Public debates are fierce, but often amount to little more than shadow-boxing by an elite that makes decisions behind closed doors. What is remarkable is the size of this elite. Thousands of politicians, clerics, generals, judges, journalists, academics, businessmen and others participate in decision-making in one way or another, shaping government policy in endless and overlapping private meetings, conversations and conclaves, listening to and lobbying each other…
Goon squad: Will the conservative camp sink a nuclear deal?
At the centre of Iran’s establishment sits a shadowy organisation responsible for defending the ideals of the revolution. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a paramilitary force rolled into an intelligence agency wrapped in a giant business conglomerate with security-related interests. It is directly controlled by the country’s supreme leader, Mr Khamenei, who is chosen by regime insiders for life and outranks the elected president…

The guards preside over a vast business empire… Many of the firms they own refuse to pay tax or open their books to government inspectors. The guards also control smuggling networks set up to bypass sanctions…
Melons for everyone: A mixture of Western sanctions and bad economic management has hit prosperity
Debate in last year’s election focused on boosting the economy. Mr Rohani won because he was seen as the candidate most likely to achieve that. Conservatives used to be anti-trade, in keeping with the autarkic and socialist sentiment of the revolution. Now even the supreme leader endorses globalised capitalism…
Shackled: The story of the world’s most elaborate sanctions regime
The sanctions regime is made up of a bewildering multitude of laws, executive orders, agency directives and UN Security Council resolutions. They affect Iranian assets held abroad, foreign aid, visas, insurance, shipping, trade and investment, currency transfers and other transactions, especially those involving the central bank in Tehran, oil sales and the energy sector generally…
Moving targets: Iran’s position in its region, increasingly influential until recently, is becoming more precarious
Iran's leaders have long had immodest ambitions in the Middle East, pining for the respect of the neighbours who once conquered and converted them and even dreaming of leading a pan-Islamic alliance, however unlikely. In recent decades they have been exporting their revolution, propelled by national pride and an urge to pass on lessons from the long road to independence, but also driven by a deep fear that they—Shia Persians facing mostly Sunni Arabs—are not so much independent as alone in a hostile region…
Prospects: We shall overcome, maybe
Millions of educated and prosperous Iranians resent being isolated from the rest of the world. Until sanctions started to emasculate trade, life had been gradually improving. Now many people have lost their jobs or seen their pay and savings eroded by inflation. The government, too, is having a difficult time. Oil revenues have dwindled and allies around the region are wobbling. Is relief in sight?…

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