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Epilogue Daniel Brumberg and Farideh Farhi What does a collective assessment of these chapters tell us about the trajectory of Iran’s politics in the coming decade and beyond? Do they portend continued centralization, or prospects for a reopening of the political and social field? These are not, of course, either/or propositions. Centralization and increased competition can unfold simultaneously, along different tracks and at different paces. Such dissonance would not be unusual for Iran’s diffused semiautocracy, which had for decades managed contending political, social, and even ideological currents. Nevertheless, we sense that 2009 was something of a threshold. What came before cannot be fully duplicated, but it can be revived or recast in ways that will create new political and social dynamics. Although their content, nature, and direction cannot be predicted, these dynamics merit careful consideration. In undertaking this task, our case studies were largely finished before Hassan Rouhani’s 2013 election, an event that surprised many of our authors as much as anyone. While we must be careful about drawing definitive conclusions regarding the significance of that election, we are confident that it reflected more than momentary circumstances. Even if—as seems likely—hard-liners try to thwart the cautious bid of Rouhani and his allies to reopen the political, cultural, and economic fields, the deeper structural forces that gave rise to these pluralizing efforts will shape Iran’s politics for many years to come, creating a complex interplay between dynamics of sociopolitical opening and contraction. “Enforcer” or “veto” institutions will lead the effort to rein in the forces advocating for political détente at home and abroad. The security sector and Iran’s Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) in particular will flex their ample coercive and even ideological muscles. Thus we agree that the securitization, largely in reaction to the system’s perception of threat from both inside and outside the country , of the 2000s ran deep, and that it will continue to pose difficult challenges for groups and leaders advocating greater political openness. Where we differ, however , is in our assessment of the capacity of the hard-liners in the IRGC and their allies in other institutions to denude Iran of its political and social effervescence and thus transform the Islamic Republic into a fully authoritarian system. On the contrary, this volume highlights the tenacious efforts of an array of social and 284 | Brumberg and Farhi political forces to sustain competition and even shape and reshape state policies despite, or because of, the securitization of the previous decade. Paradoxically, the capacity of these forces and institutions to resist or even roll back further autocratization could partly hinge on the authority, power and role of the leading veto player, namely the Supreme Leader (Rahbar) and the vast bureaucratic office he occupies (beit-e rahbari). The institutional, economic, and judicial power the Leader has accrued gives him enormous capacity to thwart potential challengers, but it is also tied to an entrenched network of economic, clerical , and educational institutions all of which have a concrete interest in resisting change. As a result, and as Mehrzad Boroujerdi and Kourosh Rahimkhani’s analysis suggests, seeking to retain his room for maneuver, the Leader has good reason to avoid binding himself too closely to any one faction. Indeed, Khamanei ’s decision to stand back from the political fray during the 2013 presidential election could reflect an effort to establish his authority as “Chief Arbiter” rather than “Chief Enforcer.” Such a move would not be unfavorable to advocates of a domestic political détente. After all, they have little hope of even modest success absent a readiness of the Leader to speak, as former President Khatami used to put it, “for all Iranians” and the “System” itself.1 Such an idea is, of course, anathema to hard-liners, who will surely claim Khamanei for themselves, even as they jockey for influence in anticipation of the inevitable struggle over his succession. The huge stakes that attend this contest reflect the double-edged nature of the Leader’s constitutional powers. As Rahbar he has the formal ultimate authority—although not a totally unconstrained capacity—to redefine the central principles of political life. He can uphold or take steps to change the system in ways both small and big in the name of the interest of the system (maslahat-e nezam). While there is zero chance that Khamanei will metamorphosize into a Pope Francis, the mere possibility of a future Leader-Innovator has probably alarmed his...


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