Edited by David Martin Jones, Ann Lane and Paul Schulte
Chapter 5: Iran: Informal Networks and Leadership Politics
5. Iran: informal networks and leadership politics* Adam Goodman Informal networks have played a major role in the evolution of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s internal and external politics.1 Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, informal networks, rather than formal parties, continue to dominate Iranian politics. The ongoing debate about whether the country needs political parties is, in itself, testimony to the power of informal networks in Iran.2 However, what is noteworthy about Iranian informal networks is that they continue to exist with a very strong and centralized state apparatus which has deep institutional roots in the country.3 As a result, Iranian post-revolutionary politics has had a kaleidoscopic nature. The competition between the informal networks for the control of various state institutions is what makes Iranian politics particularly complex. Moreover, the failure of the state to impose its authority and the lack of a strong partisan tradition in the country mean that debate over key questions of national importance such as republicanism versus theocracy, nuclear policy and the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of the state are often conducted in terms of political conflicts between various factions. Political coalitions have formed and fallen apart because party politics has not become well established. This chapter will present a number of cases of the activities of informal networks to illustrate their impact on Iranian politics and foreign policy. IRAN IN THE 1990S: FACTIONAL REALIGNMENT AND THE CIVIL SOCIETY PARADIGM Perhaps one of the most significant developments in Middle Eastern and world...
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