Iran: Ahmadinejad Seen As a Loser Back Home
August 12, 2006: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has not had a good year, his first year as president of Iran. While he has attracted enormous amounts of international media and diplomatic attention for of his outspoken calls for the destruction of Israel, at home he is considered a failure. While often described as a reformer, able administrator and pragmatist, he has not used those skills as president, to the same extent he did while mayor of Tehran. This has disappointed a lot of people. Instead of reform, Ahmadinejad has concentrated on developing nuclear weapons, and cracking down on political reformers. Ahmadinejad wants nuclear weapons, and he wants Israel and the United States destroyed. He does not want any Iranian opposition to the dictatorship of the clerics. While technically a democracy, you cannot run for office unless you are approved by a committee of senior clerics (the Council of Guardians). Ahmadinejad has shut down more opposition and reformist media, and put more reformers in jail. Ahmadinejad believes in free speech for himself, but not for anyone who disagrees with him.
Ahmadinejad was able to play his nuclear weapons campaign so that it appealed to Iranian nationalism. But opinion polls indicate that that has had only a limited impact. Overall, Iranians are angry at Ahmadinejad for not doing anything to get the economy going. Despite the rising price of oil, Iran's big export, most Iranians are still poor. Iranians blame this on incompetence and corruption among the religious leaders that dominate the government. The nuclear weapons program is now perceived as another example of incompetence. Ahmadinejad's battle with the UN, over inspections of the Iranian nuclear program, are moving towards the imposition of international economic sanctions. These will hurt all Iranians. The poor will get poorer, and the religious leaders will still have their fancy cars and big houses.
The Hizbollah war in Lebanon is also unpopular. Iranians have now been reminded that $250 million of their money goes to Hizbollah each year. That amount will probably increase, to repair the damage done by Israeli smart bombs. While Ahmadinejad makes a lot of noise about destroying Israel, the jokes in Iran are more about how Israeli smart bombs are picking the pockets of Iranians.
Ahmadinejad has not done much for morale in the armed forces either. While new Russian weapons are appreciated, there are still not enough spare parts, much less upgrades, for all the older American and European equipment. Iran builds a lot of its own weapons now, but these are all low-tech knock-offs of, for the most part, simple Russian stuff. Iranian engineers and scientists are, at least in private, not proud of this, and know they could do better without all these embargoes and restrictions. If only that idiot Ahmadinejad would shut up, if only the clerics would allow free elections. If only.
August 7, 2006: The U.S. has applied sanctions to seven Indian Russian, North Korean and Cuban forms for supplying banned weapons technology to Iran. The sanctions make it more difficult for these companies to do business internationally.
August 5, 2006: Britain has repeated its charges, based on additional evidence, that Iran is running terrorist training camps, and some of the graduates have been staging attacks against British troops in southern Iraq. The British have captured some of the camp graduates.