Biting clerics who feed you

Ahmadinezhad deflects criticism with attacks on clerics


Biting clerics who feed you
by Mehdi Khalaji

In late May, an official close to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly accused more than forty high-ranking government officials -- including some of the country's most powerful clerics -- of economic corruption. These unprecedented revelations may signal the start of a significant power struggle inside the Iranian government, one likely to intensify between now and the May 2009 presidential election.

Upsetting the Clerics
This is not the first time Ahmadinejad has upset Iran's clerical establishment. Since taking office, he has acted as if he is on a religious mission, sending letters to the U.S. and Russian presidents as well as the pope, inviting them to discuss Islam and spiritual values. These letters imply that Ahmadinejad thinks of himself as a religious leader, not just a head of government. He also permitted women to attend public soccer matches, ignoring the harsh clerical reaction until Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered him to change his policy.

Ahmadinejad has outraged Iran's clerics more directly by claiming that the Hidden Imam (the Shiite messiah) guides him in running the country. Such a suggestion undermines the cleric's fatwas and their role in government. In addition, if one believes that this messiah is behind all government actions, then Ahmadinejad does not have to take responsibility for the regime's failures and faults. This view of the Hidden Imam's role has been criticized by many leading hardline clerics, such as the head of the Society of Militant Clerics of Tehran, Ayatollah Muhammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, and the former secretary of the Supreme Council of National Security, Hassan Rowhani (also the former top nuclear negotiator). In a June 4 speech, Rowhani attacked the president's demagogical policies: "[W]e should not believe that since the country is the Hidden Imam's country, we can disclaim responsibility. . . . We have to run the country with effort and thought."

Palizdar's Revelations
In late May, in speeches at Hamdan and Shiraz Universities, Abbas Palizdar -- an expert working with the parliament's "Center for Research" -- spelled out charges of economic corruption against high-level officials of the Islamic Republic. Palizdar had access to the judicial dossiers of corrupt individuals. His specific charges were posted on YouTube and Iranian websites, evidently filmed by audience members. In one speech, for example, he described how Ayatollah Muhammad Yazdi, former head of the judiciary, purchased a tire factory at a considerable discount (Palizdar stated that it was worth $60 million, while Yazdi paid only $10 million on long-term credit). After the apparent deal, the factory's shares were sold on the Tehran stock market. Palizdar also accused the judiciary of being unwilling to fight corruption. In response, the court that oversees government employees arrested Palzidar on June 11.

Although Majlis officials and those close to Ahmadinejad have publicly denied Palizdar's connections to the government, many observers have concluded that the president is behind his allegations. Palizdar was an unsuccessful candidate on the "People's Committee of Ahmadinejad's Supporters" list in the 2006 municipal elections, and the student organizations that hosted his speaking engagements are close to the president. Moreover, none of those accused by Palizdar are supporters of the president.

The widespread speculation that Palizdar's speeches were part of an effort by Ahmadinejad to counter critics of his domestic -- especially economic -- and foreign policies seems to have merit. From this viewpoint, the president's current political goal is to position himself for reelection in May 2009. Since his economic program is exacerbating the problems (e.g., raging inflation) that are the source of so much popular discontent, he may be looking for a way to change the public discourse. Accordingly, he has drawn public attention away from the economic situation by emphasizing financial corruption, blaming "hidden hands" and "mafias" that prevent him from succeeding. He may also be trying to regain lost political ground by showing that he is doing something tangible to fulfill his campaign promise to fight corruption. On June 10, Ahmadinejad posted a long article on his blog attacking the clerics who criticized him for his political demagoguery and religious pretensions, stating that the judicial system supposed to fight corruption denies that corruption even exists in the country.

But this approach could carry a high cost because Ahmadinejad lacks a social base to challenge the clerics. Since most Iranians who voted for Ahmadinejad were motivated in no small part by conservative religious views, his apparent strategy of accusing respected clerics -- whom the people trust more than the president -- of corruption is a risky gamble to regain popularity. Although the clerics have lost a significant amount of popularity since the revolution, they have gained significant political power, and the regime's legitimacy is based on religious credentials. Moreover, ultimate power still resides with the head of the clerical establishment, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad's Achilles Heel
Regardless of the outcome of the Palizdar story, the president faces a steep political test given the increasing criticism of his economic program. Ahmadinejad promised to bring the country's oil revenue to the people, yet his administration has been unable to provide them with traditionally cheap gasoline and natural gas. Gasoline is now rationed, and in the middle of January's cold spell, 1.4 million people reportedly went without gas heat, according to then Interior Minister Mustafa Pur-Muhammadi (other estimates are even higher). Ahmadinejad has insisted that increasing the money supply by 40 percent each year and lowering interest rates to 10 percent has nothing to do with growing inflation, which his government admits was 25 percent in January (most other estimates are higher). Inflation has hit hardest on two crucial middle-class items: food and housing. Meanwhile, the social gap is growing into a widening chasm.

On April 6, Sayfollah Jashnsaz, director of an Iranian oil company, stated that Iran exported $70 billion worth of oil in 2007-2008, up from the $65 billion exported during the four years of reformist president Muhammad Khatami's first term. He estimated that in 2008-2009, oil revenue would reach more than $80 billion. Although this unprecedented income should be the basis for extraordinary prosperity, ordinary Iranian citizens do not see such change in their daily lives. Instead, they see media accusations that Ahmadinejad's government has failed to deposit $35 million in oil revenue into the central bank. Despite the government's denial of this claim, the charge reflects the lack of transparency that characterizes much of Iran's economic data.

Drawing attention from the government's failures by making inflammatory statements against his enemies may be Ahmadinejad's strategy for regaining his lost popularity before the next presidential election. But the key question is to what extent the Supreme Leader will support him -- in the end, power in Iran does not come from elections but from the Supreme Leader and the revolutionary institutions he controls. In his June 10 speech to the new Majlis, Khamenei focused on the notion that his authority stems from God, and that everyone must obey his orders. That would include Ahmadinejad.

Mehdi Khalaji is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on the role of politics in contemporary Shiite clericalism in Iran and Iraq. First published in PolicyWatch.


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I don't mean to change the subject but

by Karimi (not verified) on

what happened to Hajiagha? I haven't heard from him in such a long time. Any body knows what happened to him?


بفرما ....عین سن

disgustingiri (not verified)

بفرما ....عین سن کلوت ها افتاده اند
به جون هم و اوباش قداره بندی را که روزگاری سر
ماها را میشکستند دویست تائي دستگیر میکنند

((دستگيری ۲۰۰ نفر در تهران
علی آوايی، رييس کل دادگستری استان تهران، در نشست
مطبوعاتی خود اعلام کرد در تجمع در يکی از پارک‌های تهران
به حمايت از عباس پاليزدار، حدود ۲۰۰ نفر دستگير شده‌اند و
دستگير شدگان ظرف يک هفته تکليفشان مشخص می‌شود.
عباس پاليزدار، دبير هيات تحقيق و تفحص از قوه قضاييه،
چندی پيش در سخنانی در دانشگاه همدان و شيراز از فساد
اقتصادی بسياری از سران نظام سخن گفته بود و چهارشنبه
گذشته بازداشت شد))

Farhad Kashani

Ahmadinejhad and Khameni

by Farhad Kashani on

Ahmadinejhad and Khameni also do that by being one of the top 4 enemies of the Internet, having one of the worst records in freedom of speech and one of the highest numbers of political prisoners, in the world



by Dariush (not verified) on

Are you still kissing as usual. I thought by now you may have learned something positive.
Truthseeker is talking politely and you keep talking BS. If someone doesn't agree with US's wrong doings, that doesn't make him or her a hypocrite. That simply means he is not scarifying the truth and selling himself or herself as you do. If people like you stop kissing and speak the truth everything would be better for everyone.
As I said once, some of you are like lizard.


To: Parthian wrong on all accounts

by Truthseeker (not verified) on

First as the name "truthseeker" indicates, I want to know the truth by listening to individuals from each and every echelon of Iranian society. The family members who are in Iran are in fact totally the opposite of what you state - they are part of the upper class Tehranis who are against the IRI. However, I find their discussions, and objections as shallow as it gets. So there!

However,I still listen to their views and criticisms, and speak to many friends who come from all walks of life in order to understand what is the real issues and problems. I don't get my news from one source! Nor do I make superficial statements by regurgitating what some individuals state. Furthermore, I do travel to Iran often and speak to people from dokoon dar, to the taxi driver, to the student, to the intellectual, to the dahati, in order to forumulate a basis of my opinion. And finally, I do criticize the regime very openly both inside and outside of Iran!

In response to why the hell I am in the U.S. - I don't think it is any of your business. And just because I live in the U.S. does not mean I agree and approve of U.S. foreign policy, nor do I believe that the U.S. is a "true" democracy, in fact far from it. If this were the case then many Americans would also need to leave the U.S. as I am not the only person who holds this opinion.

Obviously you have not deleved into the details of the U.S. political system, judicial system, legislative and executive branches of this government to find out what is really taking place.

Your statements were pretty superficial and lacked logic, but this is the typical come back that many give when one criticizes the U.S.



by Dariush (not verified) on

To put these mafias behind bars they need court orders and that requires an honest chief justice. Without him the arrests will be considered illegal. Ahmadinejad first should fix this problem, then he can charge these mafias with their crimes and put them in jail.
This will take some guts and force.
For this he may need to convince Khamenei and get his support.
This is how he can extend justice to different issues in the country including political prisoners, human rights, equal rights, freedom of speech and etc.


May be they start knocking each other off

by sharizie (not verified) on

Good article.

The only thing we know about Ahemdnajadie is his wild / moronic comments about Israel and Jews.

Sounds like the " Roman Empire".. So when will the actual stabbing begin? and which one is going to be first to yell out " a Horse , a Horse for my Kingdom"?

My guess it will the "Shark" - Rafsanjani. After all he owns 1/2 of Victoria Island..I wonder if the Canadians will treat him the same way Cater treated the Shah?


Not so dumb

by ImtheKing on


In Mahmoud ingadam khar nist ha!


To Falseseekers

by Parthian on

I can not believe how repetitious the arguments are:

-Why don't you go back to Iran and speak there instead of sitting behind the computer (sort of ironic, given people like truthseeker are behind the computer)

-I talked to people back home, and they are for this or against this. Wow, I guess your families represent the whole of Iranian people!

-IR might be doing this, but Shah was far worse. The same argument can be made, GW is doing this, but Stalin was far worse. What does one have to do with another? These sorts of comparison are completely flawed.

-Let's say I argue that IR's human rights record is one of the worst in the world. Truthseeker comes back with this: I hate people wanting to impose their democracy, shoving it down the throat of Iranian people the "american way". If you have an ounce of brain, you see how truthseekers bullshit his way through the arguments. A complete lack of 101 logic. Again, how do you jump from the orginial argument to implicit reference to an invasion of a country.

By the way, I challenge all of you who are comparing Shah's regime to IR to come up with another example of someone who has challenged IR's system without going to prison, or getting killed. Your boy Palizad was just put in jail for his little show in Hamedan.

Even under the Shah's reign (I am in way defending Shah) ordinary people like truthseeker's family could criticize the government. If it became a public story, than it was a whole differnet story. In actuality, not much has changed! Did you guys witness what happened to Montazeri? I wonder what world these "truthseekers" live.

By the way Truthseeker, get the hell out of U.S if you don't like the "American way". Don't be a hypocrite. Don't pay taxes, don't do business in the U.S, don't take another job from an Indian or chinese guy who would love to do that job. Stick to your moral preaching, and put your money where your big mouth is.



by EDS on

Mehdi Khalaji concluded:

"But the key question is to what extent the Supreme Leader will support
him -- in the end, power in Iran does not come from elections but from
the Supreme Leader and the revolutionary institutions he controls. In
his June 10 speech to the new Majlis, Khamenei focused on the notion
that his authority stems from God, and that everyone must obey his
orders. That would include Ahmadinejad."

Even if Khamenei did not appeal to the religious beliefs, his political power comes from the constitution of the Islamic Republic. The constitution of the Islamic Republic is explicitly a dictatorship and by law becomes an absolute dictatorship as years pass by since the selection of the Supreme Leader. And this is exactly what has happend. As long as this constitution stands, the law itself empowers the Supreme Leader to hold all the political power. It is just that this is done in a roud-about way that many have not work through sufficiently to know.

However, while political power rests with Khamenei, real power, power at the point of the gun rests with Sepah and they are increasingly taking over the entire nation at the point of the gun. Thus Khamenei does not have a choice but to align itself with Sepah.



aef (not verified)

افشاگری غافلگیرانه یک مسئول قوه قضائیه



./. for how long you want to hide behind shah 's " crulty " ?

by zeynab be chador (not verified) on

it has been 30 yrs and still you are hiding behind, shah bad us good!!!???
Get over it, the way you talk about shah's era and new IRI IRAN! if we did not know about this corrupt regime's attrocities , we would think Iran is the cradel of justice and human rights.


At one point the Gov. is criticized for not exposing corruption

by Truthseeker (not verified) on

and now that various officials in the gov. dare to expose such corruption by naming high rank clerics, former IRI President and other high ranking gov. officials we are told they are playing with the minds of the people?

For once get your story straight, as opposed to swaying every which way the wind blows.

I agree with ./. at least under the IRI the Iranian people, and government officials are openly criticizing the government and exposing individuals responsible for corruption. When did this ever happen under the Shah? Who ever dared to tell the Shah, that he, his family and his cronies were corrupt? Definitely not anyone within the government. And if they did, they would be forced out of office or jailed never to be seen again.

I speak very often to many Iranian friends in Iran, they are not afraid of speaking about politics and criticizing the government openly, writing letters to the editors of the Iranian news paper demanding more criticism about mismanagement of the country's economy, and the "mafia" gang; they know exactly what is taking place inside and outside of Iran.

They are absolutely no fools, nor are they brainwashed like some of our Iranian hamvatans by Fox News, CNN, the New York Times etc.. They know exactly what is going on better than most of us here. And regardless of the problems in Iran they are 100% against any foreign intervention in the affairs of Iran. Nor are they asking us here in the West to come and rescue them, or work with Iran's enemies to shove this bull shit democracy down their throat, the "American Way".

So for those sitting in the West and talking on behalf of the Iranian people, why don't some of you go back and speak up like they do, and do something about the problems if you are so concerned.

Change will come directly from within Iran by the will and demand of the Iranian people themselves and no one else.


Gangland war within IR

by Teerdaad (not verified) on

Palizdar expose of IR leaders is nothing new to Iranian people. The regime is rotten to its core with corruption, murder, torture, and terrorism. Now the gangland mafia war within the regime is bringing all this to public.


Neoconic Interpretation

by ./. (not verified) on

Mr Khaliji

The iran that you have in mind and with that image you frequently write, died with the shah some 30 years ago. Today, Iran is no longer a dictatorship, people of all walks of life are allowed to criticize the government officials and the decision makers. I recall vividly, that a much smaller demonstration by students in Tehran at Shah's time would result in at least 10-20 students being picked up at night at various dormitories by Savak, and never reapprear again. The magnitude of student demonstrations in Iran today which is more or less tolerated by the government (in spite of the fact that some of those demos has been proven to have foriegn links) would be unimaginable under the shah. So goes for other liberties. Gradually but surely iran is gaining its strength. Thanks to the revolution in 1979. Welcome to the new world!


Mr. khalaj

by Anonymous21 (not verified) on

How serious do you think these new revelations are? I really suspect that they are a new round of playing with Iranian people and media.