October 13, 2005


Iranians wait for change from Ahmadinejad: The new president, more than 100 days into his term, faces persistent discontent at home. (Scott Peterson, 10/13/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

Critics - including many in Ahmadinejad's own conservative camp - complain of delays in forming a new cabinet. Four potential nominees, including that for the oil minister, have been rejected by parliament.

So far, markets in the weak economy are taking a wait-and-see approach that businessmen say could last a year or more. One industrial crane dealer - whose business is a good barometer in building-crazy Iran - says he sold 40 machines in the six months before the election, but has sold only two in the three months since.

Still, parliament this week approved a $1.3 billion "love fund" intended to give financial support to young newlyweds. Another big-ticket package to lower chronic unemployment is on the table, and the president wants to double teacher salaries.

Iranians who have seen internal reports on cabinet-level proceedings say that "social justice" - leveling inequalities in wealth, and creating more opportunities for the poor - tops the agenda. But the learning curve has been steep for a team with little international experience.

"Most people think Ahmadinejad is honest, but they have some doubts about his capability, and will wait and see," says Amir Mohebian, political editor of the moderate conservative Resalat newspaper.

"Ahmadinejad says he wants 'justice' in society, [but] he should rationalize that, and say 'I want to narrow the gap between rich and poor people,' " says Mr. Mohebian. "He should not say 'I will lead you to a society of perfect equality.' It is not possible." [...]

While conservative factions control every lever of power in Iran for the first time since reform-minded Mohammad Khatami was elected president in 1997, these hard-line forces are tempered by the Expediency Council. Led by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was soundly defeated by Ahmadinejad in the June run-off, the unelected body has been granted an unprecedented "oversight" role for all branches of Iran's formal power structure.

"The presidential election polarized the political spectrum, and this move represents a reunification of policies," says an Iranian analyst who asked not to be named. "It is a signal to this administration that 'You are not doing this alone, you must take others with you.' " [...]

Still, at home, the long-expected crackdown against social freedoms that blossomed under Mr. Khatami has not yet come. But the basiji militia, frequent enforcers of such codes, have launched exercises in eight cities recently to "confront [urban] unrest," state television reported, according to Radio Free Europe.

"Ahmadinejad and his colleagues are looking for an Islamic state, and that means a state without democracy," says Hamid Reza Jalaiepour, a political sociologist and veteran reform editor. "After three months he couldn't show himself to the ordinary people as a capable man, and it's very bad for him....They are waiting for the oil money to come to the table."

Iran's dirty little secret is that Ayatollah Khamenei recognizes that neither Islamicism nor Socialism affords the basis for economic growth, which is why he's riding herd on Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 13, 2005 9:05 AM

Your headline is darkly amusing considering the journalist's name...

Posted by: Timothy at October 13, 2005 2:12 PM