Elite perceptions of ethical problems facing the Western oil industry in Iran
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Original versionNUPI-rapport nr. 258. NUPI, 2001
The hybrid of democratic and theocratic institutions of revolutionary Iran is now over twenty years old, and is undergoing challenge. An elected president with popular legitimacy but no control of the means of coercion is endeavouring to open up and liberalise, but is being opposed by the conservatives with theocratic vetoes, newspaper closures and street violence. Part One of this report looks at the diarchy of President Khatami and Supreme Leader Khamenei, their legitimacies, their ‘minimalist’ strategies, and their common interest in restraining their wilder supporters from provoking chaos or civil war. The report then considers the elements of ‘civil society’ resulting from deep structural change in Iran: demography and education, the role of women and the free press. Finally, this part considers the journalistic comparison of Khatami with Gorbachev, and finds that although both are/were attempting limited reform of a faltering system of which they were themselves a part, no Iranian Yeltsin has yet emerged. Part Two of the report is the results of in-depth interviews with 14 prominent reformers. They are optimistic about the prospects for long-term change; all the conservatives can do is postpone change or perpetrate a bloodbath, they cannot put the clock back. Our sample tended to consider the oil companies a bad influence. However, they made a sharp distinction between American companies, which they thought more ethical and transparent, and the secretive European, Arab and Japanese companies. Asked what the oil companies should do to promote democratic developement, the interviewees emphasised transparency above all.