Iran: The Old Ways Smother Ahmadinejad


November 21, 2007: A coalition of conservatives and reformers have curbed much of what the radicals, as represented by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have attempted to do. This includes slowing down the nuclear weapons program and withdrawing support for Shia radicals in Iraq. This shift was made possible because Ahmadinejad was not able to reform the economy, or curb corruption. The entrenched corruption (especially of some senior clerics, and their families) proved impossible to root out. Religion is important in Iran, but if you really want to motivate someone, use money. And there's a lot of oil money sloshing around, with the oil selling for over $90 a barrel.

The coalition against Ahmadinejad has fact and logic on its side, and numbers. Ahmadinejad may still have the advantage when it comes to scary headlines, but his opponents know how the economy and banking systems work, both inside and outside Iran. The next few rounds of international sanctions will cost Iran billions of dollars, and make life harder for the people, as well as the bureaucrats. Ahmadinejad can blow this off in public, but in meetings with other senior officials, he has to back down in the face of dire prospects.

In Iraq, Ahmadinejad also had to back down in his support of radical Shia factions there. It became obvious that Iranian religions fanaticism only appealed to a small minority of Iraqis, and any attempt to push Iranian radicalism there was creating resistance. More pragmatic Iranian leaders convinced Ahmadinejad that long term relations with a Shia dominated Iraq were at risk because of his policy of supporting Shia radicalism inside Iraq. So earlier this year, it was agreed to cut a deal with the Americans and withdraw the support for Shia radicals inside Iraq. This included cutting back arms smuggling, and the use of Iranian military experts to train Iraqi Shia terrorists. In return, the British and American would stop presenting embarrassing evidence of Iranian meddling in Iran, and withdraw the commando raids that have been doing deeper and deeper into Iran, looking for arms smugglers and Iranian troops.

Many Iranian leaders believe that the West would, and could, attack Iran. The ease with which Israel hit a Syrian nuclear research facility two months ago, and the obvious skill of American forces across the border in Iraq, plus the knowledge that Iran's military capabilities are rather puny, by any standard, has frightened most of the Iranian leadership. Ahmadinejad talks brave, but he is pretty much alone. It's been the Iranian custom, for thousands of years, to plan things carefully, and carry them out methodically. Ahmadinejad is the one who is acting "un-Iranian" with all his glib talk to bold measures and quick action. Iran did not become a regional superpower with that kind of stuff.

Ahmadinejad's enemies know that if they keep quiet and move relentlessly, they can import Russian and Chinese warplanes, and other weapons, to replace the current motley array of armaments. Ahmadinejad has no better plan for rearmament, and knows that this sort of thing has to be done quietly, so as not to scare the Russians and Chinese off. Every time Ahmadinejad pops off, Chinese and Russian diplomats feel faint. Ahmadinejad has also become aware that he cannot even trust a lot of the people working for him. Ahmadinejad represents a minority attitude in Iran, and many presidential aides pretend to be loyal, but are quick to work against the president.




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