Iran in the Year 2020

Abstract

Chances are Iran will not look dramatically different in 2020 than it does now, with the main factor shaping the Islamic republic’s stability being the preservation of the delicate balance between the revolutionary and republican axes.

In this report, Wikistrat’s Dr. Raz Zimmt argues that evolutionary developments are likely to continue, but that they will not turn into political demands or lead to major political change.

There are other scenarios in which Iran becomes either more republican, more Islamic, or sees a complete upheaval of the current regime. But the prospects for violent or revolutionary change are low.

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Strategic Takeaways

  • The growing gap between the Islamic regime and the Iranian public, especially the younger generation, is expected to affect internal developments in Iran under any scenario. Young Iranians face dire economic hardship, and their support for revolutionary principles has consistently declined. This gap presents the regime with two main options: It can either adapt itself to public demands and carry out certain civilian reforms, or increase domestic repression to maintain its power.
  • Economic issues are expected to remain the Iranian public’s main concern. Economic improvement might provide the Iranian regime with the capability to successfully meet public expectations — at least in the short term. Over the long run, however, it is doubtful that economic improvement alone can be enough in light of the public’s civil and political expectations. Furthermore, economic improvement could even help accelerate further demands for political change.
  • The prospects for violent and revolutionary change in Iran remain low. The Iranian public seems more interested in evolutionary changes following years of revolutionary transformation, a prolonged war, political and economic instability, and international pressures. Therefore, the probability for revolutionary change increases only under exceptional circumstances, such as unusual political repression, economic crisis, or other dramatic internal or external developments.
  • The Iranian political system is likely to continue to be characterized by internal power struggles, especially between those who are elected (the government and the parliament) and the unelected (especially the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guards and the religious establishment). A sudden change in one of those institutions — e.g., Khamenei’s demise or the election of a new president with a different political orientation – could bring about a significant change in the interaction within the regime and affect its stability.

Author

Raz Zimmt

Dr. Raz Zimmt
Wikistrat Senior Analyst
Research Fellow at the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel-Aviv University


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