Since the attack on the novelist, Iran’s newspapers have kept up a steady stream of invective against Rushdie. To understand why Tehran persists in criticizing Rushdie even after the death of Khomeini, it is essential to understand where the fatwa sits in its current identity.
Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif is, in a sense, more of a true believer than many in the Revolutionary Guard. He genuinely appears to be under the illusion that the ideals of the Islamic Republic still have popular support and that Iran should rely on them instead of brute force. Few in the IRGC seem to harbor such illusions.
The height of Iran’s influence — at least as presently expressed through the IRGC — has probably passed. Whether we’ve entered a period of stasis or decline is as yet unclear, but the latter seems more probable.