Corruption and poverty
Corruption has submerged the regime. A
number of officials have immensely enriched themselves through the
black market, favoured by the state monopoly of foreign trade. Others
have become rich by buying the previously nationalised. industries at
very low prices. According to “Forbes”, Rafsandjani and his family have
scooped up nearly a quarter of the country’s wealth. Which makes him
one of the richest men in the world, but above all the most powerful
man in the country. The Iranians say often that their country has
become a Rafsandjani private limited company. It is a capitalist-mafia
regime, which divides Iran into territories, each of which is directed
by a family, the Rafsandjani have oil, pistachios, arms sales, the
Jannati have the monopoly of sugar, the Pasdarans have the cosmetics
and drugs markets, and so on.
According to a classification of global
assets in foreign exchange and gold hold in world banks, the Islamic
Republic has more than 40 billion dollars, or half of the assets of the
USA, which makes it one of the richest countries of the world. Still,
according to this report, the majority of these assets are held in
personal accounts, unlike many other states.
These figures are all the more notable
in that, at the same time, the foreign debt of the Iranian Republic is
growing unceasingly. A foreign debt of around 24 billion dollars and a
Central Bank debt of 11 billion dollars weigh on the economy of the
country and on the margins of manoeuvre for the Islamic regime.
With hydrocarbons at record prices,
oil-exporting countries have been able to repay their debts early
(Russia 15 billion dollars; Mexico 7 billion dollars; Algeria 8 billion
dollars), but the Teheran regime has not succeeded in repaying its debt
and it is even over-levered. This debt, which was 12.5 billion in 2004,
rose to 17 billion in 2005 and 24 billion in summer 2006. Iran has not
been able to profit from the current explosion of oil prices, because
the regime does not sell Iranian oil at market prices but in Buy-Back,
between 8 and 18 dollars a barrel. . And if, according to the US Energy
Information Center, Iran is the country which has most increased its
oil and gas reserves during 2005, the ageing oil industry needs
significant investment: Iranian investment needs in the oil sector
alone are estimated at 100 billion dollars.
Unemployment is rampant among the
young. In the absence of reliable statistics, many analysts estimate
the rate of unemployment at 40%, if not more. The Iranian population
has grown rapidly since the revolution. Today half the 70 million
Iranians are under 18 and it is estimated that it is necessary to
create a million new jobs every year to provide work for these youth.
In fact the growth of GDP has fallen. The problem of unemployment is
particularly sharp among urban youth. And young graduates are
especially sensitive to the absence of job openings.
A recent UN report reveals that more
than 550,000 children in Iran live on less than 1 dollar per day. This
same report reveals that of 35.5% of the population live on less than 2
dollars per day while the price of oil has tripled in the past two
Officially, this regime is a republic
with a “Parliament”, opposition parties and even “reformers”, but in
fact it remains a sectarian ideologically totalitarian regime that one
can not even characterise as a “dictatorship” inasmuch as the power of
clans is immense and the grip of sectarian religious rules on the lives
of Iranian individuals is omnipresent.
A creeping coup d’État?
It is in this political and economic
context that the Iranian people were asked to participate in the farce
that the Islamic regime calls “presidential elections”. The term
“election” appears inappropriate to the extent that the candidates in
the presidential elections were selected in advance by a council which
issued an opinion on the level of their competence and their religious
virtues. For the first time following the contradictions and tensions
of the adverse factions of the regime the electoral masquerade of 2005
was supposed to take place in two acts.
Out of more than 1000 possible
candidates only five were not rejected as unsuitable by the Council of
Guardians, which is a watchdog of the Islamic constitution. The five
candidates selected were: Moïn, then Minister of Culture (candidate of
the reformers); the former president Rafsandjani, strong man of the
regime; Karoubi, then president of the Islamic Parliament; Ahmadinejad,
the mayor of Teheran, unknown to the public and outside the political
scène; and a fifth with no known past. The first round created a
surprise: with 6.5 millions votes the unknown Ahmadinejad arrived
first, beating the all-powerful Rafsandjani. In the second round only
29 million voted out of 47 million registered; Ahmadinejad received
17.5 million votes. It was obvious that the vote for Ahmadinejad meant
above all a big “no” to Rafsanjani, as someone who has incarnated the
regime since the beginning. Each time the people are given a chance to
express themselves, they seized the opportunity and used it as a
plebiscite to express rejection of the regime.
But another new element surfaced in
this election: the role of the Guardians of the Revolution. The regime
had used the whole state apparatus and its whole propaganda machine to
promote Ahmadinejad. Faced with the total defeat of the so-called
“reform” in the economic and political areas, it turned towards a new
strategy. At the economic level, a pure liberalism, on the internal
political level absolute repression - an Islamic “Chinese model”!
Some years ago, a translation of the
famous book by Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations and the
Remaking of World Order”, appeared in Teheran. The editor received an
order for 1,000 copies, half of the print run. The distributor recalls:
“We wondered who had ordered such a quantity. We had the reply when we
saw a military lorry arrive belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary
Guards Corps (IRCG), which took away the books”. Yahya Safavi was among
the officers who received a copy of the book; today he is general,
commander in chief of the Guards. another copy went to Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, a former reserve officer of the Guards, now president of
the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In recent years, the regime has slid,
by various means, into the hands of the Guards. A former officer of the
IRCG, Ibrahim Asghazadeh, has himself said that the new
political-military elite had fomented a “creeping” coup d’État. While
the former president Mohamed Khatami roamed the world, seeking to
impress the Western public with quotations from Hobbes and Hegel, the
Guards have built an impressive popular network throughout Iran and
created two political organisations which are highly respected: the
Usulagaran, or fundamentalists, and the Isargaran, those who sacrifice
themselves, each attracting the young generations of officers, civil
servants, entrepreneurs and intellectuals.
In 2003, the network gained control of
Teheran municipal council and appointed Ahmadinejad to the post of
mayor. Two years later, the latter emerged as the presidential
candidate of the Guards, beating the former president Rafsanjani, one
of the richest men on the planet and a representative of the old guard
of mullahs on the road to disappearance.
Who is Ahmadinejad?
Born in 1956, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad grew
up in the poor neighbourhoods of southern Teheran. In 1975 he went to
university with the intention of becoming an engineer.
During the Iranian revolution
Ahmadinejad became a leader of the Association of Islamic Students, an
ultra-conservative Islamic fundamentalist body. He then played a role
in the seizure of the US embassy in Teheran in November 1979. During
the repression in the universities in 1980, which Khomeiny called “the
Islamic cultural revolution”, Ahmadinejad and his organisation played a
key role in the purges of dissident teachers and students, many of whom
were arrested then executed. The universities stayed closed for three
years and Ahmadinejad joined the Guardians of the Revolution.
At the beginning of the 1980s,
Ahmadinejad worked in the “internal security” of the Guardians of the
Revolution and acquired a reputation as an interrogator and a cruel
torturer. For a while he was a torturer in the deadly prisons of Evin,
where he participated in the executions of thousands of political
prisoners in the massacres of the 1980s. In 1981, he joined the
brigades of the terrible prosecutor-executioner Lajevardi, who operated
from the Evin prison where, every night, they executed hundreds of
prisoners. He was then nicknamed the “finisher”: he who fired the last
bullet at those who were dying.
Involved in the terrorist operations of
the regime abroad, he masterminded a series of assassinations in the
Middle East and in Europe, notably the Kurdish leader Ghassemlou,
assassinated in an apartment in Vienna in Austria in July 1989.
After serving several years as governor
of the towns of Makou and Khoy in 1993, he was appointed cultural
adviser by the minister of culture and Islamic orientation. Some months
later, he was appointed governor general of the province of Ardebil. In
1997, the newly installed Khatami government relieved Ahmadinejad of
his post and he returned to the university, but his main activity was
to organise Ansar-e-Hezbollah, an ultra-violent Islamist militia.
After becoming mayor of Teheran in
April 2003, Ahmadinejad set out to build a powerful network of
fundamentalists, Abadgaran-e Iran-e Eslami (literally “those who
develop an Islamic Iran”). Working closely with the Guardians of the
Revolution, Abadgaran succeeded in winning the municipal elections of
2003 and the legislative elections of 2004. Abadgaran described itself
as a group of Islamic neo-fundamentalist youth who wished to revive the
ideals and politics of the founder of the regime, Ayatollah Khomeiny.
It was one of many ultra conservative groups set up on the orders of
the supreme guide, Ayatollah Khamenei to combat the faction of the
outgoing president Khatami after the parliamentary elections of
The balance sheet of Ahmadinejad is
typical of that of the men chosen by the entourage of Khameneï to give
a new face to the identity of the religious elite. But the façade is
thin. And the despotism apparent.
Ahmadinejad is the first non-mullah
candidate to become president since 1981. His modest origins and his
demagogic and populist discourse have won him, at least during the
presidential election, the confidence of a part of the population,
particularly among the poor who feel abandoned by the corrupt religious
chiefs. But Iran is on the verge of a very deep social crisis. After
more than 20 years of the reign of the mullahs, the masses have
accumulated much anger and frustration. The movements of youth and open
divisions inside the regime are clear signs of a crisis which is
is an exiled Iranian revolutionary Marxist militant. He is an organizer
of Solidarité avec les Travailleurs en Iran (“Solidarity with the
Workers in Iran”), 266 avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris) and a member of
the Fourth International.