From The Telegraph:
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini offered a radical alternative to the puffed-up Pahlavis. His title denoted a considerable Islamic scholar. His lifestyle was simple and his opposition to the shah coherent and courageous. Yet these qualities do not fully explain the mesmeric hold he had over Iran and the wider Islamic world. There must have been something in his appearance and way of speaking to generate the wave of joy when he returned home in 1979, and of grief when he died 10 years later. In dealing with notorious figures, it is easy to underplay their personal charisma.
Not only was the ayatollah revered, but the political system which he founded has proved durable – 30 years this February. Velayat-e faqih, which invests supreme authority in a religious leader, has outlived the Ba’athist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in neighbouring Iraq and vies for longevity with the rule of Hafez al-Assad in Syria and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. As in all those countries, it has relied on terror to maintain its grip on power, from summary executions on the roof of the Refah School, Khomeini’s first headquarters, to public hangings today. But brute force has been combined with prudence. The revolution has been happy to use proxies – Hizbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip – to confront Israel and its Western allies, and has been careful not to get too deeply involved in Afghanistan and Iraq.