August 10, 2009

Ahmadinejad’s Predicament and Iran’s Political Crisis

Farideh Farhi provides this superb analysis at IPS:

[D]espite the proclaimed support of 24 million Iranians, [Ahmadinejad’s] government is by far the weakest post-revolutionary government. Ironically, it is this weakened position that tempts him to be a force of constant agitation and confrontation.

The political crisis that has ensued has effectively pushed economic concerns to the side, and brought to the forefront once again a whole set of political civil rights issues emphasised during former President Mohammad Khatami’s reformist era.
Ahmadinejad could pursue his economic agenda while at the same time attempting to reduce political tensions generated by the election and its aftermath. This would entail a coordinated effort with other centres of power – including the office of the Leader and the Judiciary – to address some of the serious breaches of citizens’ rights that have occurred, finding those responsible for them, and putting in place mechanisms that would ensure against their repetition.
But Ahmadinejad’s personality – and the paranoid outlook of the security- oriented circles that surround him – make it unlikely that he will choose that route for fear that any sign of weakness will only worsen his predicament. The decision to put on trial past officials en masse under conditions that lacked the slightest trappings of due process is already an indication against such a conciliatory approach.
In foreign policy, Ahmadinejad’s approach to Iran’s unprecedented turbulences is likely to deem the best defence a strong offense.
In reaction to his polarising approach, efforts to influence, control or dislodge him will come from all corners of Iran’s political spectrum – making his already erratic managerial style even more haphazard and shifting, adding to his difficult position.

Ahmadinejad’s options are limited. He can acknowledge his weakened presidency, over-see a cabinet whose individual members will contest his policies, and head an administration that is conflicted from within. Or he can try to try to act resolutely by picking fights with almost every political force in the country – in which case his behaviour will be the source of heartache for everyone who for ideological reasons or for fear of reformist resurgence ended up supporting him in the election.

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