Thirty years ago yesterday Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini disembarked from a 767, ended fifteen years of exile from Iran and drove the first nails into the coffin of two and one half milennia of Persian monarchy (the final nails would come about in April.)
Khomeini stepped from the belly of a jet and into the adoration of the masses who'd collectively turned against his arch nemesis, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, and into the power vacuum left behind by the ailing (politically and physically) Shah's departure the previous month. The revolting masses; nationalists, socialists, Shia clergy, looked to Khomeini and the constitution he'd penned during exile as deliverance from the Shahs scandalous corruption and ill fated White Revolution. An effort of modernization that utilized the brutal measures of SAVAK secret police to repress Iran's Islamic ideals, political opposition and deliver Iran to the pinnacle of modernity and pro-Western standards.
On April 1st, 1979 the masses gleefully passed a referendum that designated their homeland the Islamic Republic of Iran and there was much rejoicing... For a little while. And then it was quickly realized that the brutality of the SAVAK was to not quite eradicated, rather replaced with a more stringent, fundamentalist version of brutality that seemed an echo of the Shah's oppression as it targeted secular remnants of the Shah and other opposition. This bit of the second article of Iran's constitution; negation of all forms of oppression, both the infliction of and the submission to it, and of dominance, both its imposition and its acceptance, took a back seat to consolidation of power behind first, the supreme leader, Khomeini and next the oversight of the clergy.
Iran maintained a parliamentary process for popular elections but that process was and continues to be filtered by the oversight of a theocratic board of censorship (the Guardian Council) that decides who can or cannot run in popular elections. Yes, the people have a voice but Iran's political institution is hardly driven by the engine of democracy though elected leaders (prominently, president Mohammad Khatami) have had a substantial (if subsequently reversed) effect on Iran's domestic situation and geo-political message.
Read about and get to know Iran. Beyond the fiery rhetoric of it's current, unpopular president it is a keystone for; resolution to the Israel/Palestinian conflict, political stability in Iraq and a resolution to the worrisome theater of war in Afghanistan.
4 years ago