It is time for Iran to stop trying to export its Islamic Revolution and to take its place as a fully engaged member of the Middle East, which respects its neighbours and wants to work with them on an equal footing. The disaster of its confrontational foreign policy and its political adventurism on countries as far afield as Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen need to stop.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been struggling with the twin identities of Islamism and republicanism for 35 years since the Islamic Revolution toppled the Shah in 1979. The revolution installed a roughly secular and liberal government under president Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, which was quickly replaced by the hardline theocracy of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The unique status of Khomeini led to the creation of the position of Supreme Leader and the political and religious concept of the velayat-e-faqih, meaning rule by jurisprudence, which gave the religious authorities as personified by the Supreme Leader very wide-ranging powers, which were eagerly taken over by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after Khomeini’s death.
These powers naturally clashed with the authorities of the elected presidency and majlis (parliament), so the Council of Guardians was created to manage this process, which proceeded to give ultimate authority to the religious leaders and so reduced the republican element of the Iranian constitution.
It is a matter for the Iranians to decide how they want to run their own country, but the complex web of diverse powers in the Iranian republic have not served the country well. Its economic record is miserable and urgently needs addressing. The previous government failed over basic issues like making sure that there is enough food in the markets, fuel at the gas stations and, more importantly, that everyone feels there is economic opportunity to build and invest in a future.
It is time the theocratic leadership within the Iranian power structure focuses on these basics, rather than seeking to export its Islamic Revolution outside its territory.