The survivability of the regime is impressive. If the government’s Islamic credentials do not quite have the same hold on the public as in 1979, how does it make its case, especially to its more restive young generations?
The system is opportunistic. Its main interest is to survive and retain support across politically significant sectors. Its overriding economic policy concentrates on sustaining welfare programs, including education, medicine, and social services in the traditional countryside where it enjoys higher levels of support. The welfare state survived for forty years because it implemented social programs. The educational system has had a huge expansion. Life expectancy is almost as good as in America. These things are often forgotten. Although there are economic protests, the majority of the state apparatus has done pretty well meeting public needs. Now, because of economic pressures, things are difficult. But for the people who have lived through the last forty years, they realize that there have been important advances.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
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Dr. Ervand Abrahamian, an Iranian American regarded as a leading historian of modern Iran with particular focus on its opposition movements, is the Distinguished Professor of History at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He previously taught at Princeton University, New York University, and Oxford University. Since 2010, he has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.