From the Supreme Leader to the economy to nuclear weapons, the west is all wrong on Iran—and these misconceptions will have consequences.by Jahangir Amuzegar / May 24, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in June 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran. Photo: DragonFire1024
Though Iran remains the intense focus of western media and politicians, it is largely misunderstood. Common notions of the Islamic Republic are that it is: a puritanical and religious state; dominated by an austere dictator; presided over by a fanatical xenophobe; burdened by an economy that is collapsing due to sanctions; developing the nuclear bomb. But these are all myths.
First, Iran is theocratic only to a degree and is not puritanical. It has a written constitution, separation of powers, periodic elections and a judicial system. The country’s civil and penal codes are not strictly Islamic and women enjoy more civil and political rights than in most Islamic countries. Leadership is not hereditary and several grand ayatollahs are openly critical of the notion of velayat-e-faqih, the theological concept that gives jurists custodianship of the people. Gourmet dining, alcohol, gambling, drug use and pleasures of the flesh are tolerated and enjoyed by both rulers and ruled.