Remember how things were going for Khamenei as of January 1st, 2009? He still enjoyed reasonable popularity and almost no one criticized him openly, not even refomers. Things looked pretty nifty abroad as well. What happened? “Operation Ahmadinejad,” a Khamenei project that lightly brushed off many potential obtacles. In that respect and in the hard consequences that follow, it recalls Hitler’s decision to invade Russia (Operation Barbarossa) on June 22, 1941. Neither man had thought it out.
Frightened by pent-up demands for reform visible in the Majlis election of 2000 and the Khatami victory in 2001, the Supreme Leader had gotten away with increasingly rigged elections ever since 2004. Underestimating public reaction, he counted on doing it again. This was fatal decision #1. Finding he had poked a hornet’s nest, a wise leader would have backed off. Instead Khamenei, reactionary by nature, decided to ignore the people and use police state measures to impose his will. Again Khamenei trusted in bad assumptions–that the police state would be tempory and the public would “get over it.” So came fatal decision #2. Neither will ever be forgiven.
Nothing has gone well since. In certain respects regime insiders are even more miserable than the oppressed people. Those who make a Faustian bargain begin to squirm as the bill comes due. As happened to the Nazis by early 1945, every sumptious meal is tainted by a nagging “It’s just a matter of time” sensation. Most potentates, having access to real news, do not trust the “everything is hunky dory” reassurances in state media (a nice Goebbels touch). Visualize optimistic Nazis after Stalingrad, Kursk, D-Day and the Bulge and you get the picture. Will Iran’s insiders, like Germany’s generals, decide to oust an unreasonable leader to save what they can? Foreseeing that, Khamenei has dispatched a new death squad, widely believed to be led by the sly Hossein Taeb, with generals as their main target.
If day-to-day news is bad for Iran’s people, it must be extremely demoralizing toregime insiders who opted for a one-way trip in 2009. From what I can see in today’s roundup at Enduring America (see link below), what stands out are two things: 1) more open criticism of the Supreme Leader’s disasterous decisions by worried insiders and 2) more horrific economic news.
The central causes of Iran’s economic morass are internal and not caused by sanctions which forced the only real reform–a limited removal of wasteful subsidies. Causes lie in how the economy is structured, who makes the economic decisions, the inevitability of massive corruption in a “closed” society and a built-in incapacity for reform. What amuses me is that the only competent economic minister Iran ever had was Moussavi, victim of the fatal coup who is now in jail. Economic reform requires public trust (gone for good). Economic reform requires taking on IRCG genrerals and their economic privileges. For a regime that depends solely on force adminstered by those generals to survive, how is it possible?