A regime of contradictions and paradoxes, Iran's front of radical Islamism and revolutionary tendencies belies a deeply pragmatic streak of political self-interest. Political developments in the country can usually be tied to inherent tensions between popular and theocratic sovereignty, and Iran's multihued relations with the world and the region.
1Iran’s unique Shia Islamic heritage is enshrined in a theocratic and revolutionary state, which is nonetheless democratic. Traditionally a politically quietest branch of Islam, Shiism became a symbol of resistance against Western influence, leading to Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution of 1979.
2The politico-religious philosophy of velayat-e faqih (governance of the jurist), enshrined in the constitution, envisions an active political role for the ulema in the affairs of state, in which political and religious duties are combined in the form of the rahbar, the ‘Supreme Leader.’
3Iran’s proactive foreign policy represents its desire to be regarded as the major global Islamic power. In a region where conflict is increasingly drawn along sectarian lines, Iran is clinging on to its sphere of influence, which includes four regional capitals, through material and financial support for governments and proxy forces.