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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Did I Mention Change in Iran?

It was only yesterday that I suggested change could be brought about by soft power as a result of the US election.

While it's still early and dangerous to suggest that a major shift is already under way, I found this interesting story from Borzou Daragahi in today's LA Times online linked to the Huffington Post:

Iran Economists Denounce Ahmedinejad's Policies

Seems that the Iranian President is taking more domestic flack from nascent opposition to his government's standard of bellicose nationalism.

Now, to be fair, Iran has unhappily found itself centered between hostile forces in destabilized countries on two of it's borders. It's only natural for the Iranian government to focus on nationalist themes in the face of a serious threat.

But when your own economists contradict your leadership in an international forum and you start reading this:

In a 30-page letter quoted by several newspapers and state-run television and published on the website of the independent Iranian Labor News Agency, the economists say Iran is in dire economic straits and must drastically change course. The letter also says Ahmadinejad's "tension-creating" foreign policy has "scared off foreign investment and inflicted heavy damage" on the economy.

"Meager economic growth, widespread jobless rate, chronic and double-digit inflation, crisis in capital markets, government's expansionary budget, disturbed interaction with the world, inequity and poverty have combined with the global economic downturn to leave undeniably big impacts on exports and imports," the letter says.

Ahmadinejad immediately blasted back, contending at a seminar on economic development that Iran has been "least affected by this international financial crisis" and urging economists to design "an independent economic system and model based on justice," according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

A man like President Ahmedinejad has got to be a little concerned about his fellow conservative ideologues and their ability to hold on to power. He knows that his people realize that America has peacefully overthrown it's own hard liners.

The president of Iran and many in his government are veterans of the Iranian revolution and no doubt command respect among older and conservative people. I wonder what the feeling is among young Iranians who don't remember the revolution but do like democracy.

More from the LA Times:

The letter and its publication suggest that Ahmadinejad and his clique face growing discontent among Tehran's elite political circles ahead of the presidential election in June.

The negative assessment flies in the face of recent bragging about Iran's economy by religious leaders, some of whom have described the West's economic downturn as God's revenge.

Sound familiar? Religious fundamentalists are the same in any language.

In America, we've just passed through our own democratic process - 22 months of fear against hope.

Now I wonder what the Iranian people hope for this June?

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