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Iran celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution during the first ten “Days of Dawn” in February, beginning on 1 February, the day that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s plane landed in Tehran in 1979. Middle East observers generally agree that the establishment of the Islamic Republic has had a profound impact on the region: politically, socially, militarily, economically and culturally. Regional power configurations and alignments – in peace and in war – have been deeply affected by the resurgence of Shia Islam as a state religion in Iran and the centrality of religion to governance. Iran’s relations with terrorist organisations and groups in the past generation have also been greatly influenced by the Islamic Republic.

Key points:

  • The Islamic Revolution advanced the notion of Islamic activism as a potential force in governance by showing that participating in elections and governing (within limits), did not violate God’s rule.
  • Despite their mutual antagonism, Iranian theocracy and Arab autocracy are two sides of the same coin. Both advocate for political Islam; both abhor democratic politics and the freedoms that ensue.
  • The fear of a foreign invasion has driven post-Revolutionary Iran to pursue active contacts with terrorist organisations, but Tehran has also worked closely with Washington against al-Qaeda and in post-invasion Iraq.
  • In the years ahead, more ways should be found to better engage with Iran and the region, including the full re-instatement of the Iran nuclear agreement and inspections regime.
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