Iran: Cracks in the Empire
June 29, 2006: Although "Supreme Leader" the Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khameini has basically told the world to buzz off regarding the country's nuclear ambitions, relations between him and radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be deteriorating. Apparently, Ahmadinejad's frequent arch-conservative ranting on foreign policy and domestic issues runs contrary to a more nuanced, pragmatic approach favored by Khameini and the circle of conservative clerics who are his principal advisors. Khameini has on several recent occasions spoken far more moderately on certain issues than has Ahmadinejad. As a result, Ahmadinejad reportedly has recently told Khameini to button his lip about certain diplomatic matters, as an intrusion on the president's authority. In a sense, this can be likened to the complexities of the "Red Guards" phase in Maoist China during the 1960s, when various factions in the Communist leadership tried to out-do each other in radicalism in order to firm up their control. How such a scenario might unfold in Iran will be interesting to see. Iranian politics is considered a blood sport, with the losers getting themselves dead.
Unrest among the nations minorities (Azeris, Arabs, Kurds, and Baluchis), continues, with evidence of insurgent activity by some groups (Kurds and Baluchs). More importantly, however, is that there appears to be growing unrest among the country's Iranian majority population, which has been suffering under increasing religious restrictions and is considered generally pro-American by many analysts. The government has not scored many points with the Arab minority by condemning nine Arab-Iranians to death for setting off bombs between last June and this past January, which killed 23 people. Iranian police arrested 24 Arab-Iranians, but popular opinion held that the cops got the wrong guys, and that the trials were more for show than for justice.
Several days ago Tehran experienced a large (as in several hundred strong) demonstration by women protesting religiously prescribed rules on divorce, marriage (especially polygamy), and other "women's issues." The demonstrators were dispersed with some violence.
Meanwhile, at a recent conclave in London, leaders of most of the secularist opposition organizations and representatives of the various ethnic minorities appear to have put together a consultative organization to coordinate their opposition to the religious regime in the country.