January 18, 2007


Iran's discontent with Ahmadinejad grows (ALI AKBAR DAREINI, 1/18/07, Associated Press)

Prices for vegetables have tripled in the past month, housing prices have doubled since last summer -- and as costs have gone up, so has Iranians' discontent with hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his focus on confrontation with the West.

Ahmadinejad was elected last year on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment. Now he is facing increasingly fierce criticism for his failure to meet those promises.

He is being challenged not only by reformers but by the conservatives who paved the way for his stunning victory in 2005 presidential elections. Even conservatives say Ahmadinejad has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-U.S. speeches and not enough on the economy -- and they have become more aggressive in calling him to account.

"The government has painted idealistic goals like tackling housing problems and unemployment ... but no solution has been offered," said Mohammad Khoshchehreh, a prominent conservative lawmaker, told The Associated Press.

Ahmadinejad's government "has been strong on populist slogans but weak on achievement," said Khoshchehreh, who campaigned for Ahmadinejad during the election.

A president under fire at home (The Economist, 1/18/07)
IN THE higher echelons of the Islamic Republic, people may be losing patience with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Informed Iranians do not think he risks losing his job. But plainly he is not as safe as he was. Conservatives in Iran's parliament and press blame his extravagance at home and braggadoccio abroad for Iran's worsening economic malaise and for the unpleasant sense of being ever more squarely in the Americans' firing line. [...]

Already cock-a-hoop over the defeat of Mr Ahmadinejad's allies in local elections last month, his domestic critics are keen to blame him for the latest round of American sabre-rattling as well as for last month's sanctions resolution passed against Iran in the UN Security Council. It seems that a clutch of senior figures in the regime, perhaps including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have endorsed the criticism. [...]

A recent statement signed by 150 members of parliament imposed conditions on the president in drawing up the budget for the next Iranian year, which starts in late March. The MPs are now calling on him to defend his record before parliament. [...]

A sudden decision last year to raise the minimum wage had to be reversed when it caused job losses and strikes across the country. On his weekly trips to the provinces, the president is in the habit of dishing out government largesse to petitioners for local causes. And parliament has accused the government of favouritism in giving big contracts to the Revolutionary Guards without going to tender.

This lavish and sometimes whimsical spending has pushed up inflation and made Iran more vulnerable to oil-price fluctuations.

Runaway inflation is the death of governments.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 18, 2007 6:17 PM

I'd like it if we were flooding the country with counterfeit currency to speed this process along, but that may be too much to hope for.

Supposedly the Saudis are turning on the oil spigots to drop the market price and thus hurt Iran. Interesting to note that the Reagan administration talked them into doing the same thing to hurt the Soviets in the '80s, and it worked.

Posted by: PapayaSF at January 18, 2007 7:05 PM


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