Ahmadinejad’s ultimate moment
Ahmadinejad's campaign against corruption is more popular amongst the poor than any of his other policies regarding Israel, the US or even the nuclear program
December 3, 2005
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is one of the products and symbols of the longest struggles in Iranian history. The struggle in question is so old that it even outlasts the Iraq vs. Iran hostilities, which started in the early 70s and culminated in the bloody eight year war between the two countries. This struggle is so popular and emotive that it lead to mass demonstrations and coups years before the Islamic revolution of 1979.
The struggle in question is that of Iran's class struggle. The rich vs poor. The haves vs. The have nots.
The underclass in Iran have been ignored for centuries, yet they have not sat silent. They have taken every opportunity to try and make their mark on Iran's future and political direction.
They have been cheated by successive Iranian political movement, yet they continued with their struggle. They did it in the 1950s by supporting Mossadegh, some others tried their luck with the Communists who promised them class equality. Others backed the Shah with his land reform promises which the country folk hoped would improve their livelihood.
Many more joined Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution in 1979 as he promised them a truly Islamic system of equality, one which follows the words of the Prophet. With the holy Qur'an specifically condemning “all forms of racial, tribal or national prejudices which cause one to stand by one's own people in an unjust cause over and against truth and justice (Q.5:2, 8)” the poor of Iran saw great hope in his promises.
To the disappointment of many, the Islamic revolution did not and has not fully lived up to its promises of bringing equality and an end to injustices against the poor.
It has had limited success in bringing education and health to more rural areas. However these were reduced greatly due to the cost of the war against Iraq. Greater reductions were caused by internal corruption which saw great chunks of Iran's wealth being squandered by corrupt and inept individuals, who were put in charge of managing the country's wealth.
As in previous cases in Iran's history, Iran's underclass are not blind to the injustices against them.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the son of a blacksmith born in one of the most deprived areas of Iran (Semnan province) and brought up in one of the most deprived parts of Tehran knows all about being an underclass. In Tehran in terms of job prospects and opportunity to move up the social ladder, it is bad enough if someone is from the poor parts of the Tehran, its even worst if that person is a “dehati ”, the Persian word (sometime used for derogatory purposes) meaning peasant used to label people from the provinces.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was both.
So far, unlike his former underclass colleagues who suddenly and corruptly found great wealth after gaining official positions, Ahmadinejad has managed to stay incorrupt. Furthermore he has made the fight against corruption one of his main battle cries. This cause is more popular amongst the poor than any of his other policies regarding Israel, the US or even the nuclear program.
His cause for concern is understandable, as international organisations such as Transparency International have placed Iran amongst the world's most corrupt countries, (93rd position out of 133) in their 2005 annual survey.
One of the internal accusations levelled against him and his colleagues so far, is that he is inexperienced, and is also surrounding himself with other inexperienced and ideological officials.
The method and intensity of his fight against the army of corrupt officials heading different organs of the Islamic republic, barely four months into his Presidency is a testament to his lack of experience.
This is best illustrated by Ahmadinejad's recent calls for the introduction of economic programs to help the poor. One major scheme calls for privatisation and selling of shares in government owned business conglomerates. The shares in question are then to be sold to families in the low earning income brackets of Iranian society.
This call has scared even conservative government officials out of their wits.
So much so that according to unofficial reports from Tehran, many heads of such conglomerates called on Iran's leader Ayatollah Khamenei to complain about the scheme. It has even been suggested by a number of anti government sources that a number of influential managers of such conglomerates called on the grand Ayatollah to remove Ahmadinejad from power for his “inexperience”.
The managers in question are not so much scared of the privatisation process in itself, or what happens after privatisation. What scares the bejesus out of them is what happens before the privation process, i.e. the financial audit process.
For years such corrupt managers, backed up by other corrupt members of the Majlis (parliament) have been siphoning off millions of dollars whilst running organisations in the name of Iranian martyrs, the poor and the disabled. A third party coming and tracing just what has financially been happening over the years is scary stuff, straight out of the Islamic Republic's version of the shining, with Ahmadinejad trying to axe his way through the door of their comfortable quarters. “Here's Mahmoud” indeed.
This is notwithstanding Ahmadinejad's other battle in his war against corruption which is being waged over his choice of nomination for Minister of Oil. Although other members of the Majlis certainly do have a point for requesting someone with experience being appointed for such an important position, nevertheless their cause for concern is not as puritan as it seems. Many of the Majlis members also realise that if one of their “inside” candidates is not elected, it will mean an end to kickbacks which they have been receiving from the Oil Ministry for years.
What is concerning to those worried about Ahmadinejad's drive against corruption is that he seems adamant and committed. Therefore they expect the unwelcome disturbance in their quarters to continue.
What should concern Ahmadinejad and those around him is their lack of understanding and experience in fighting the Godzilla that is corruption in Iran. It has destroyed many in its path before, and could do so again.
Although Ahmadinejad's drive against corruption may be just and may even have the overt backing of Ayatollah Khamenei, the demagogic size and influence of government corruption in Iran has assisted the regime to stay in power. To turn against it will mean to disrupt the very wheels and mechanisms which run the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Even though Ahmadinejad does not seem to realise this, those more experienced than him such as Khamenei and the members of the Guardian Council do. Therefore sooner or later they will be left with a number of choices, one of which may mean turning against the wheels which keeps them in power as part of Ahmadinejad's drive against corruption. It is very unlikely that they will choose this option.
Iran is a country full of surprises. It has on many occasions been able to produce unexpected results.
Therefore it is possible that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will score major points and victories in his campaign against corruption.
If that happens, that could be one of his best moments.
Judging by the size of task at hand, and the power and influence of those against him, it possibly could also be the start of his last moments as the President of Iran.