This essay takes a stylized paradoxical fact of Iranian politics under the Islamic Republic of Iran as its starting point: the stark confusion between the position and a good portion of the opposition. Such a blurred frontier between “position” and “opposition” did not exist during the shah's regime. Without the decisive support of non-Islamic organizations, secular intellectuals, and political forces on the ground, the creation of a theocratic regime in Iran and its consolidation could not be realized. Now on the thirtieth anniversary of the Islamic Republic, the open opposition of many influential clerics toward how the government is run under the present supreme leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad provides a new episode of “opposition” within the theocrats' circles. To put this paradoxical fact differently, it should be emphasized that no regime in Iran's modern history has produced so much opposition within its own ranks and enjoyed the loyalty of its oppositions at the same time. How could this paradox be explained? Our essay tackles this issue by describing the peculiar type of social order under the Islamic Republic of Iran as ordered anarchy or “destructive coordination.” Analyzing the sources of this type of coordination, we proceed in two steps. The first is to question whether there has ever been a laic or secular movement in Iran's recent history. The second consists in defining the institutional setup and recent dynamics of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a strange, if not unique, mutant of Samuel P. Huntington's praetorian state, led by “priests” and armed religious militants.

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