Internal issues in Iran have shifted government and public attention away from foreign policy and nuclear issues to divisive internal power politics and such issues as the deteriorating economy, the housing crisis, gas rationing, press crackdown, health insurance disorganization, stock exchange predicament and the like. This summer is indeed proving to be a hot one for Iran; not for the often-talked-about foreign military attacks on the country, but because of an emerging picture of a regime in disarray.
For the regime, the death of Ayatollah Meshkini could not be more untimely. The internal power struggle that was to come to a head during the elections for Majlis next March now has to play itself in less than a month in a battle between two influential ayatollahs, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mesbah Yazdi. One of them will replace the deceased speaker of the Assembly of Expert during the assembly’s meeting scheduled for 4-6 September.
Ahmadinejad’s government and the fundamentalists are pushing Mesbah’s candidacy. Their plan is clear: they have the presidency; they have the current Majlis; they are preparing the groundwork for Guardian Council’s disqualification of prominent moderate candidates for the next Majlis; and now they want Meshkini’s seat to exert maximum pressure on the middle-of-the-road clerics to join their bandwagon. The fundamentalists are going for an all-out power grab.
The continued detention of the Iranian-Americans is a move by the government to broadcast further “confessions” linking high-ranking former officials in Khatami and Rafsanjani administrations and conservatives such as Mohsen Rezaie, who may have attended many international conferences in the past, to foreign organizations including intelligence services; and hence disqualifying them from running for the 8th Majlis or in the 2009 presidential elections.
Hashemi, Karroubi, Khatami and Rezaie need to make a stand now or to loose their influence and possibly their reputation.
The economic woes are adding to the political instability in the country. Ahmadinejad not only did not bring oil revenues to people’s dinner tables as promised, but during his two-year leadership the cost of housing kept skyrocketing, the gasoline was rationed, inflation rate passed 20% mark, and unemployment, especially among the youths, reached alarming levels.
On international scene, Ahmahinejad's policies helped isolate Iran to a dangerous level. Major financial institutions are cutting ties with Iran and the country is facing severe sanctions through the UN and outside of it.
The rise in oil prices to historical highs has provided the government the cash needed to sustain its programs. Behind the veneer created by this cash flow, however, are the bitter realties of double digit inflation and unemployment as well as the increasing isolation of the country. The isolation, directly helped by Ahmadinejad’s diatribes and policies, is preventing major investments in the country and in the very oil industry which has been the government’s cash cow, presenting a real possibility that Iran would run out of oil exports in less than a decade.
A country in crisis needs a government able to bring together its people. Instead, the past two years of Ahmadinejad’s administration have become a period of government’s all-out war on free press and the journalists, on students, on women, on workers and the unions, on youths, and on Iranians abroad. Ahmadinejad's two-year reign has been a disaster for Iran.