Iran’s Political System

Iran’s Political System and Its Implications for US Policy
July 2011

This paper by Dr. Peter Jones, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, provides an overview of the Iranian political system, the roles of officials within this system, and implications of a dynamic Iranian political landscape on future US foreign policy.

The Islamic Republic of Iran poses a particularly vexing set of problems for U.S. policy-makers. Its seemingly impenetrable political process and highly ideological approach make it a very difficult interlocutor. But policy-makers need to understand and engage Iran. Left to fester on its own, Iran could pose an even worse set of headaches.

This paper provides an overview of the Iranian system, one of the most complex, unusual and factionalised in the world. It will explain Iran’s constitutional arrangements and then explore how politics really works in Iran. The paper will then discuss what this means for U.S. policy- makers. It should be noted at the outset that this paper contains no magic formula for making everything alright. Such a magic bullet probably does not exist.