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.

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