Iranian Regime's Economic Stew

In a recent article on Tehran Bureau, Muhammad Sahimi was too dismissive (by dint of his choice of adjectives), in describing of Ahmadinejad as: "isolated and delusional", and he erred in reducing the regime to the person of the president.

But he was correct to describe Ahmadinejad as "weak". Professor Sahimi accurately catalogs the ongoing obstruction of the hardliners and the very public political fractures. Furthermore he shows the regime is now tellingly reliant on a narrow base of IRGC appointees to fill government posts.

Ahmadinejad/IRGC's core 'hard' support is as low as 12%, with a 'softer' support extending to up to 20% of the population. Because of this, the disputed president's public pronouncements are reductionist and defensive --aimed at his own supporters and the ill-informed. By contrast, most other voices in Iranian politics are addressing the remaining 80%+ of the population.

Despite their hard-line rhetoric, Ahmadinejad/IRGC are unable to crush the reformers. It is going to be far harder to violently suppress any mass public protests in the weeks ahead. And there is a dire political problem looming for this one-legged regime: it's the economy, stupid!

Even a government of national unity would be hard-pressed to dig the Iranian economy out of the mire against the backdrop of deteriorating global finances. A lame duck Ahmadinejad government comprising an ineffectual clique will certainly fail to turn things around. One shudders to contemplate the unspoken financial state of Iran. Currency problems and capital flight are doubtless significant.

As the weeks pass, the economy will join the stolen election as the twin key political issues for the populace. Imagine an opposition rally protesting the economic straits of the people as well as the stolen election. Imagine the regime trying to suppress such a rally.

That the reformers are not already in prison is a victory in itself. Now, a death by a thousand cuts threatens the Iranian regime. That reality explains the government's determined effort to halt such a slow slide by means of show trials --which have backfired.

The reformists could compromise by accepting the current status quo, on condition of substantive electoral reform overseen by a parliamentary process. But from their perspective it might be best to simply allow this regime to stew in their own economic juice until well roasted.

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