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Is Iran a pariah state, or simply a misunderstood nation, undergoing a programme of modernization within its own traditions? This work examines the current role of Iran in the international arena, and particularly within the Middle East. Written from an insider's perspective, the text demystifies the complicated political history of a country that has evolved from a totalitarian regime to a democratic state founded on the popular vote of its people. After many centuries of oppression under tyrannical monarchies, the revolution gave the public the chance to voice their opinion for the first time. Their vote for an Islamic Republic led, in turn, to the remarkable election of Mohammad Khatami in 1997, with its incredible 20 million turnout, in the face of formidable opposition from traditionalist opponents. Examining the political and social changes within Iranian society from a historical perspective, this work goes on to look in detail at internal affairs since Khatami's election, and the ongoing political struggle between traditionalists and modernists.