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This is an immensely valuable study. It identifies and delineates the relationships between and among the formal and informal power structures in Iran—until the year 2000. It shows how the views of many in the West that characterize the Islamic Republic as split between "radicals" and "moderates" are not only simplistic but confusing. Instead, Buchta brings greater clarity by using three categories: "the Islamic left," "the traditionalist right," and "the modernist right." He also makes clear that many of the difficulties of understanding power relations in Iran are exacerbated by the frequent switches in positions by members of the political elite. ‘Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a prime example, has been extraordinarily successful at holding on to power by frequently abandoning his political commitments.

Buchta identifies the principal institutions and political figures of Islamic Iran including the presidency, Supreme Religious Leader, the parliament, Council of Guardians, the Assembly of Experts, the Expediency Council, the Revolutionary Armed Security Forces, and the Revolutionary Foundations. He traces their history from the founding of the Islamic Republic and their relationships. He also identifies the clerical and non-clerical and the nonviolent and militant opposition to the ruling establishment. He explains their relationships to the formal and informal power institutions.

Having identified the players, Buchta then presents a detailed history of "who did what to whom" from the first Khatami election to the end of his research in 2000.

All of this is extraordinarily useful in understanding the complexities of the regime and a powerful antidote to much of the popular (mis)interpretations of Iranian politics. Moreover, Buchta helps us to understand the longevity of the regime and its resilience in the face of so many threats to its existence. He also provides much useful data that confirm the powerful argument of Daniel Brumberg in his Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran.[1]

None of this is to suggest that Buchta's book is without flaws. He did research in Iran and conducted interviews with key figures. But it is difficult to find a Persian language source among his footnotes. Instead, he relies on German or Arabic sources. Moreover, in his chronological section, the book suffers, as do many other chronologically grounded works. As he gets closer to the end of his account, it becomes more and more difficult to separate what happened from what happened that was significant. Looking back, one would want a slightly different emphasis of the events of the late 1990s.

But none of this is meant to detract from the great service Buchta has done for us in providing this comprehensive morphology of the Islamic Republic.

[1] Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.