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Jamsheed K. Choksy

Jamsheed K. Choksy

Posted: July 31, 2009 05:57 PM

Happy Inauguration Day, Dr. Ahmadinejad: Don't Count on Success


Iran's "re-elected" president faces turmoil of his own making.

Next week, on August 5, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to be inaugurated for a second term in office as Iran's president. He faces a hornets' nest. Iran's society is in the worst political turmoil since 1979. Its economy is sliding downward rapidly too. Even once staunch supporters are turning against him.

After 7 weeks of very aggressive repression, Ahmadinejad's government still has only limited success keeping dissent out of the public view. Revolutionary Guards bashing of heads at funerary commemorations this week was yet another dismal try at quashing the popular uprising that is underway in Iran.

But the resistance has morphed, and continues to adapt and thwart the regime. Even when the fundamentalist government controls the streets, it is undermined by cyber attacks, work stoppages, incapacitation of administrative infrastructure, denunciation after Muslim prayer services, impromptu gatherings, and demonstrations. Essentially, every occasion has become a potential focus of protest against a government viewed as illegitimate by the Iranian people including leading mollahs like Hossein Ali Montazeri and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

During his first term in presidential office, Ahmadinejad squandered Iran's fiscal reserves on pet projects -- nuclear energy, tactical missiles, aid to Hamas and Hezbollah, price subsidies for groups within Iran such as the Revolutionary Guards, Basij paramilitary, and villagers who had supported his initial election in 2005. Now, his new administration will have to grapple with an inflation rate over 28 percent and an unemployment rate of at least 12 percent. The state's revenues are not thriving either as crude oil prices fail to bring in a foreign currency bonanza.

What shape Ahmadinejad's new government will take is unclear as well. His choice for 1st vice president -- a relative -- was ousted by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other fundamentalists for not being sufficiently anti-Israeli and for attending gatherings such as dances at which men and women mingle! His current cabinet of ministers has stormed out of meetings, refusing to accept his authority -- like rats deserting the proverbial sinking ship. He has retaliated against them by firing the Minister of Intelligence and Security. Many hard-line clerics are advising the supreme leader to stop siding with Ahmadinejad and turn him into a scapegoat for the failed electoral process. They fear that the theocracy itself is in danger of being overturned by the people.

The Iranian fundamentalist theocracy is indeed in serious trouble. Events may appear to us, from outside Iran, to be sputtering. But we should recall that the last Iranian revolution took years to gain momentum, and then the actual uprising itself lasted one year. Even if he does take the oath of office next week with Supreme Leader Khamenei's blessings, Ahmadinejad will experience an uphill struggle to make Iran function successfully as a nation state, to regain the trust of Iran's people, and to prevent an internally-generated revolution. At the same time, he will have to deal with, stall, or face off the West on nuclear weapons, terrorism, and Middle East peace. It's likely to be a gloomy, stressful inauguration day in Tehran.