Friday, November 18, 2005

Ahmadinejad Cleans House

Pejman Yousefzadeh reports that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been busy:
"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's clearout of his opponents began last month but is more sweeping than previously understood and has reached almost every branch of government, the Guardian has learned. Dozens of deputy ministers have been sacked this month in several government departments, as well the heads of the state insurance and privatisation organisations. Last week, seven state bank presidents were dismissed in what an Iranian source described as 'a coup d'├ętat'.

"An informed Iranian source with first-hand knowledge of all the main political and clerical figures in the country said: 'Ahmadinejad is defying everybody. He does whatever he wants and considers it to be right. This is not how things are done in Iran.'"

William Beeman also reports on the situation:
"Mr Ahmadinejad appeared benign enough in June. A pious, ruthlessly honest and modest civil engineer, he had done an excellent job as Tehran's mayor. However, he immediately sent shockwaves through the establishment by proposing ill-suited ideologues as ministers in his new Government, by his badly received appearance at the United Nations, by his fiery condemnation of the 'Zionist regime' in Israel - an action that attracted international condemnation - and finally, by his recall of 40 moderate Iranian ambassadors.

"His actions have caused consternation in segments of the Iranian public as well. On November 3, his Government introduced a scheme to provide shares of national industries to Iran's poor, allowing them 20 years to repay the cost of the equities. Rumours have flown that the next target is Iran's private industrial holdings. There is no opposition between Islam and capitalism, and Iran is ruthlessly capitalist.

"Iranian owners of industry were not going to wait to find out whether the rumours were true. Reportedly more than $US200 billion ($A270 billion) in investment income has fled Iran for Dubai, where about 2000 new businesses have been established in the past four months. The capital flight was accelerated by Mr Ahmadinejad's remarks against Israel, after which the Tehran stock exchange plummeted to its lowest point in two years."

I suspect the last two paragraphs hold the key. There's more going on in Iran than a fight between liberal reformers and conservatives who support the system. What you have in Iran is a kleptocracy as much as a theocracy, and Ahmadinejad, while strengthening the latter, threatens the former.

(Crossposted to LAT.)


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