January 29, 2007


Only the US hawks can save the Iranian president now: Ahmadinejad is failing to deliver for the poor and losing support, but he could yet survive because of the international threat (Ali Ansari, January 30, 2007, The Guardian)

Ahmadinejad was elected on a platform of anti-corruption and financial transparency, and few appreciated how rapidly he was intoxicated with the prerogatives of his office. He very soon forgot the real help he had received in ensuring his election, basking in the belief that God and the people had put him in power. Ahmadinejad soon had a view for all seasons: uranium enrichment. Of course Iran would pursue this, and what's more, sell it on the open market at knockdown rates. As for interest rates, they were far too high for the ordinary borrower, so cut them immediately. And then there was the Holocaust.

None of this might matter so much, if the president had based his rhetorical flourishes on solid policies. But much to everyone's surprise nothing dramatic materialised. Ahmadinejad appeared to follow the dictum of his mentor, Ayatollah Khomeini - "Economics is for donkeys". Indeed, his policies could be defined as "anything but Khatami" (his predecessor). So the oil reserve fund was spent on cash handouts to the grateful poor, and the central bank, normally a bastion of prudence, was instructed to cut interest rates for small businesses.

These had the effect, as Ahmadinejad was warned, of pushing up inflation. The rationale for high interest rates was to encourage the middle classes to keep their money in Iran. Now they decided to spend it. Richer Iranians, worried about rising international tension, decided it would be prudent to ship their money abroad. This further weakened the rial, and added to inflationary pressure. In the past few months the prices of most basic goods have risen, hurting the poor he was elected to help. Moreover, far from investing Iran's oil wealth in infrastructure to create jobs, he announced recently that Iran's economy could support a substantially larger population, as if current unemployment was not a big enough problem.

Views such as these, along with his well publicised unorthodox religious convictions, have earned him the ridicule of political foes. What is more striking perhaps is the growing concern of those who should be considered his allies, especially in the parliament. These are people who supported him and expected results. They expected their populist protege to overturn the heresy of reform.

Much to their irritation, not only has Ahmadinejad singularly failed to consolidate and extend his political base, the recent municipal elections saw his faction defeated throughout the country. Traditional conservatives and reformists reorganised and hit back, ingeniously using technology to work round the various obstacles placed in front of them. Now, over the past weeks, with biting weather, shortages of heating fuel are further raising the political temperature, while his political opponents point to the burgeoning international crisis for which the globetrotting president seems to have no constructive answer. Talk has turned to impeachment.

Mr. Anasi, interestingly enough, makes the same mistake that the hawks and Mr. Ahmedinejad himself did, imagining that he ever had support from above or below. In fact, it was only because Ayatollah Khamenei underestimated how much he'd alienated the reformers and how few would turn out to vote that such a whack job won election in the first place. From there he's just played into the hands of both the conservatives and the reformers and greased his own skids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2007 8:54 PM

Dick Cheney is now Ahmadinejad's best friend. How ironic is that?

Posted by: MinorRipper at January 30, 2007 10:28 AM

Ironic? Cheney is a neocon and they always need a cause, no matter what it is:


Posted by: oj at January 30, 2007 10:35 AM
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