January 22, 2007


Iranian cleric attacks president (Frances Harrison, 1/23/07, BBC News)

Senior Iranian dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, has attacked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over nuclear issues and the economy. [...]

The grand ayatollah complained that people kept on shouting slogans about nuclear rights, but he asked: "Don't we have other rights too?"

It was a pointed reference to concerns about diminishing freedom of speech in Iran under Mr Ahmadinejad.

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri also launched a scathing attack on the president's handling of the economy.

He said some gentlemen claimed inflation was only 13% in Iran, but everyone knew the cost of housing had risen more than 50%.

He asked why the government went on useless trips and spent money on others abroad, seemingly a reference to President Ahmadinejad's recent tour of Latin America and Iranian aid to Palestinian groups like Hamas.

The neocons would do well to note how robust the opposition is in a country they believe totalitarian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2007 8:01 AM

I hate to defend Ahmadinejad, but Montazeri's criticism sounds like bad economics to me.

Real estate is a commodity with an inherent tendency to outpace the general rise in prices precisely when an economic is strong. Thus, in the United States, there was a major surge in housing prices in the decade to 2005, even though inflation was generally quiescent.

The reason for this is that underlying the price of housing is the price of land, and land is inherently limited in supply, so rising demand can only drive up prices.

I would be much more encouraged about the chances of economic problems bringing down Ahmadinejad if I heard that the price of housing had fallen 50% while general inflation was 13%.

Posted by: Nathan Smith at January 22, 2007 9:36 AM

Political opposition is one thing, but you fail to note that the competing groups are just parts of the overall gang that has run the country since 1979. Do Montazeri and Rafsanjani (or Yazid for that matter) represent valid slices of Iranian society, or just their own private lily pads? Was Khatami a representative of the "people" or a prop to show to the UN and the West?

When a true opposition coalesces, it won't be behind Soviet-like statements and inner-circle feuding. And what is Montazeri really complaining about? If you choose to live by the slogan.....

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 22, 2007 10:07 AM

Speaking of the neo-cons, they seem to be having a massive hissy-fit, the likes we haven't seen since Miers, over Dinesh D'Souza's new book.

I haven't read it, so maybe it is as bad as the neos are claiming, but I'm skeptical given that their main objections to D'Souza seem to be that he has the temerity to argue that:

*Muslims are right: the West is waging a war against Islam.

*What has really enraged the fundamentalists is not America's freedom, but our abuse of that freedom, specifically the sexual liberty we grant to women and the corruption of childhood innocence by our vulgar and licentious popular culture.

*By attacking the depravity of the left, conservatives can win friends among Muslims and other traditional people around the world.

I see no problem with any of these.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 22, 2007 10:49 AM

Didn't the earthquake take care of a bit of housing stock a couple of years ago?

Iran's not known for its building codes, mebbe buildings are falling down.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 22, 2007 12:01 PM

The problem, of course, is that neocons aren't conservative and have fairly open contempt for all monotheism, not just Islam.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2007 12:32 PM

Yes, as Democrats and Republicans are just members of the same gang.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2007 12:37 PM

Sayyid Qutb was indeed alienated by America's libertinism. What did he see that he was so scandalized by? He lived in Greeley, Colorado, which was a dry town at the time, so it wasn't booze. One thing was that he went to a church dance. Men and women, dancing together, in a place dedicated to religion!

That made Sayyid Qutb angry enough to go home and become one of the founding fathers of modern Islam.

The anecdote is an indicator, I think, that ALL of American society, not just the left, is way too culturally liberal for conservative Muslims to tolerate. That's one reason to reject D'Souza's ideas. Another is that there is the hint of a "separate peace": since conservative Westerners can get along all right with Islamists (supposedly), we should join the Islamists in attacking liberals and secularists. That's cowardly. Even if it IS our liberal and secularist comrades that the Islamists are really mad at, to stand by them is the only honorable thing for conservatives to do. (Whether or not they have the backbone to stand by themselves.)

Posted by: Nathan Smith at January 22, 2007 1:26 PM

Nathan, I agree that we never ought to appease the hardcore fanatics, who can never be appeased anyway.

However, is that what D'S is saying we ought to do?

Isn't the argument that many non-radical Muslims have sided with the fanatics b/c they see the vulgarity and licentiousness of much of what not only passes for culture in the west, but is defended and even advocated by liberal elites, and that pointing this out to these more mainstream Muslims will help us wean them from the likes of Sayyid Qutb?

I mean do we really have to defend the architects of the holocaust of babies, the coming holocaust of the elderly, not to mention the Paris/Britney/Hollywood culture b/c they're somehow on "our" side?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 22, 2007 2:00 PM

And when Democrats and Republicans unite on something, such as 95-0 on Kyoto, it is usually going to stick as national policy. Just like the Iranian gangsters and their unanimity on the destruction of Israel, their program for nuclear weapons, and their projection of terrorism as state strategy.

You really need to separate your view of the Shi'a from your view of Iranian politics. While Ahamdinejad is obviously an outlier (though not by much, given the thuggish nature of things), there is almost no difference between Khameini, Khatami, Rafsanjani, and Montazeri.

Besides, the mullahs have never cared about the state of the economy, because it has been in their interest to keep the population poor and quiet. Not destitute, but docile. Perhaps their attitude will change if the economy collapses.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 22, 2007 2:14 PM

Exactly. The difference even between America and the Islamic Republic or George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is rather minor. They just need a couple tweaks.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2007 2:58 PM

Qutb came to Jim Crow America--how could he help but be ambivalent about it? It wasn't worth preserving in any case.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2007 3:03 PM

Qutb was a nutcase who became a murderous nutcase. And your choice of "ambivalent" is disingenuous. He may have felt that way in 1948, but within a very short time he was the first to call for death to America.

Tweaks won't cut it when all approved candidates for office must follow Khomeini's version of Shi'ism (along with the Jew-hatred, the nuclear love, and all the rest). They need a reformation, which is by nature revolutionary. In trying to be a provocateur, you have become blind.

Posted by: ratbert at January 22, 2007 4:14 PM

Qutb was deeply ambivalent about America with good reason, not least because we so often supported the oppression of Muslims in their own countries.

There is no such requirement for candidates. The reformation their system requires is profoundly minor--a more open system for allowing candidates and less day to day meddling in affairs by the Guardians. They're Britain circa the 17th and 18th centuries.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2007 8:06 PM