The circle around Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is hardening and shrinking — and more and more, his former allies are turning against him. The regime seems determined to pursue a policy of dictatorship at home and isolation abroad, whatever the cost. Iran’s snub of Western attempts to negotiate a deal over its nuclear program — and the added insult of its recently announced plans to expand its uranium enrichment program tenfold — are clear signs that cooler conservative heads in Tehran and Qom have lost ground to Ahmadinejad’s hard-liners. Many religious Iranians and some conservative clerics, for example, have begun to increasingly feel that the theocratic system has become un-Islamic.
The demonstrations that erupted on Dec. 7 in cities across Iran included not only Westernized students but conservative Iranians as well. The Islamic Republic attempted to thwart the rally by shutting down Internet access, but thousands of Iranians nevertheless marched in the streets. The protests included not only Westernized students, but religious and conservative Iranians as well — evidence that conservative Iranians are becoming more and more opposed to the state, even if their response is not usually to participate in social unrest.