Jul. 26, 2008
JAVEDANFAR , THE JERUSALEM POST
In Iran, much like the rest of the world, possessions
are used as status symbols by the wealthy. Among other
things, the rich judge each other by what car the other
person drives, in which neighborhood of Teheran they
live, which hotel they stay during their shopping trips
to Dubai and what cellphone they use.
The same applies to politicians, many of whom during
the reign of Ali Rafsanjani
and Muhammad Khatami abused their positions to amass
huge fortunes. No government expenses were spared to
purchase the latest BMW or Mercedes Benz for them.
Meanwhile, others managed to buy government property in
Iran's scenic Caspian Sea coast for a fraction of the
market price. The children of such politicians, who are
sarcastically called agha zadeh (children of
nobles), are known to have benefited handsomely from
their fathers' corruption. Their friends don't seem to
mind. The parties thrown by these agha zadehs are famous
in northern Teheran for their abundance of alcoholic
drinks, dance music and beautiful girls.
Such abuse of status has created much animosity in
Iran. In a country where the gap between the rich and
poor is widening, some politicians, especially young
conservative war veterans, who include Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, have decided to do the opposite. They live
in simple houses and drive bottom-of-the-range cars.
Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, is one of
them. His status symbol is his beaten up, Korean-made
KIA Pride, which is one of the cheapest cars assembled
and sold in Iran.
AND Ahmadinejad belong to a generation of conservative
war veterans who see the Iranian nuclear program not
only as an important tool to confront the West, but also
as a status symbol to take on their internal rivals from
the reformist and pragmatist camps. In fact, in many
cases, their internal goals and motivations exceed those
of their external concerns.
The election of Ahmadinejad in June 2005 was hailed
as a victory for the non-clergy conservatives. For the
first time, Iran had a president who unlike his
predecessors had fought in the war, was well educated
and had worked his way up from lowly administrative
positions. He was the man who the conservatives hoped
would dismantle Rafsanjani's multimillion dollar empire
and would send the flashy agha zadehs packing. Ahmadinejad
was the man they hoped would reverse the inflation and
unemployment problems created by Rafsanjani and made
worse during Khatami's reign.
Three years after entering office, Ahmadinejad has
failed to deliver on all of his promises. The nuclear
program is all that he has left. His old friend Jalili,
as the general secretary of the Supreme National
Security Council has the ear of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
and is Ahmadinejad's point man in the nuclear program.
Jalili and Ahmadinejad believe that by not negotiating
with the West, they will weaken Iran's pragmatists and
reformists, who are concerned about Iran becoming more
isolated. This way Ahmadinejad hopes his chances of
reelection next year will increase.
For now Khamenei,
Iran's ultimate decision-maker, seems to back the advice
of Jalili. Judging by reports from the July 22 edition
of Jomhuriye Eslami newspaper, which is
considered to be Khamenei's mouthpiece in Iran, Teheran
is going to turn down the EU's recent incentives
Iran's nuclear program and Iran's legal right to
produce energy, are being sacrificed by the government's
uncompromising stance, and not just by the actions of
the West, as some Iranian officials claim. Khamenei, who
is a pragmatic politician must realize that people like
Jalili are only after the political welfare of
conservatives. His advice could have long lasting
damaging impact on the welfare of the regime and
Iranians, as refusal to accept the EU incentives package
will make it easier for the West to impose tougher
sanctions or even justify an attack.
Compromise is not a dirty word. The people of Iran
have compromised and sacrificed enough through a bloody
revolution, and even a bloodier war against Saddam Hussein's
invading army. Its time for the government to follow
suit. Instead of listening to the advice of
inexperienced and belligerent conservatives such as
Jalili, Khamenei should send him home, in his Pride.
The writer is the coauthor of The Nuclear
Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of
Iran. He also runs the Middle East Economic and
Political Analysis Company- his email is