Monday, October 08, 2012

Ahmadinejad's Currency Crisis

The currency crisis in Iran which last week saw a bazaar strike and a government assault on money-changers is a symptom of the regime's weakening economic position, but not the harbinger of revolution.  The bazaar is not the political force it was in the 1970's, and the protests of only a few hundred have already been quelled.  One striking aspect of the events, however, is the way official Iranian mouthpieces laid the blame at the feet of President Ahmadinejad, with Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, Tehran's Friday prayer leader, saying, "While some of the pressure is due to sanctions, we must not ignore other factors.... Bad policies are also to blame."  Other clerical figures echoed those assertions, which seem to go out of their way to blame the incumbent president even above the United States.

Why do this?  I suspect part of the reason is that Khamene'i and those around him want to keep public support up for the nuclear program and their policies of resisting the West, and are willing to toss Ahmadinejad over the side on economic policy grounds to ensure that.  It could also just be taking advantage of the crisis to try and limit his potential influence after his term ends next year, but I suspect the popular frustration with the monetary situation is real as the overall media environment would seem to reflect.  If so, then Iran's ultimate leaders need to cast blame elsewhere as an alternative to admitting the country is slowly being ground under American pressure.



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