Not since the mid-1980s, the height of the war with Iraq, has the Islamic Republic had a year this bad. For ordinary Iranians, 2020 brought disease, death and dearth on a scale few have experienced. For their theocratic rulers, it brought a series of embarrassments and reversals, at home and abroad, bookended by the loss of two of the regime’s great champions.

Year’s end saw a glimmer of optimism — things could scarcely get worse — in 2021, especially if the new administration is Washington is more charitably inclined toward the regime in Tehran. But the likelihood of a hardliner becoming Iran’s next president in the summer bodes ill, for Iranians and the wider world.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s annus horribilis began with the devastating death of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and designated for terrorist activities by the U.S. He was killed on Jan. 3 in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy in Baghdad.