Leadership: No One Is In Charge In Iran


January 7, 2008: Who runs Iran? No one in particular, it turns out. Over the past two years, the senior cleric, Ali Khamenei, has tried to solve the corruption problem by ordering most state owned companies to be privatized (sold off to investors). Khamenei, who has enormous civil and religious power, was ignored. How did that happen? It's all about money.

About ten million of Iran's 70 million people live off the third of the economy that is, technically, owned by the state. These are properties that were seized from the royal family and royalist families 25 years ago. These firms are controlled by the clergy and their Islamic conservative allies. This includes the oil industry, which earns over $80 billion a year. Most of that goes to finance a huge bureaucracy, whose main goal is to keep the clerics in power. State owned companies that are losing money, are kept afloat with oil revenues. Education, health and infrastructure spending all take second place to keeping the clerics in power. Khamenei's order to sell the state firms, finally made publicly over national television, was ignored because all the corrupt clerics knew that the most important thing was not curbing corruption, but keeping the clergy in power.

The various cleric controlled bureaucracies keep themselves out of trouble with each other by following a "live-and-let-live" policy. So one faction can support terrorist attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, while another insists that the government is doing no such thing. There are some general rules followed by all the factions. These are based on Iranian tradition and custom. First, don't do anything that will cause great and obvious harm to the country. Namely, keep us out of war. The losses of the 1980s war with Iraq are still vivid in everyone's mind. It is believed that the main leadership factions have agreed to keep nuclear weapons and materials out of the hands of terrorists. But the Iranians won't discuss this openly, as their official policy is that they have no nuclear weapons program.

Bottom line, no one is in charge of the national government, and the senior government officials have the maintenance of their personal wealth and power as their primary goals. All in the name of Allah, of course.


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