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This study analyzes the evolution of the Shia clerical establishment in the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979, and assesses the prospects for the durability of the current regime. It examines the nature, role, modus operandi, and sources of various clerical power centers; considers major issues of factional discord; and identifies the probable domestic and foreign policy directions of the clerical elite in the post-Khomeyni era. The study also includes detailed analyses of the composition, hierarchy, and organization of this establishment and scrutinizes the present status and possible future political role of clerical factions. The report is based in part on interviews with informed Iranians and others, including many Shia clerics and other religious functionaries, and supplemented by analysis of open-source literature in local and Western languages. The author suggests that, though a major change in Iran's position vis-a-vis the United States is unlikely in the immediate post-Khomeyni period, the United States should strive to establish a working relationship with Iran. Such a relationship is desirable because it might prevent Iran from sliding into the Soviet orbit and discourage it from overtaking the other Persian Gulf states, and because Iran is the most important Persian Gulf state from the standpoint of population, economic and military power, and geo-strategic location.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

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