Thursday, December 27, 2007
If You Fall, I Will Catch You
A sharp rise in inflation has provoked fierce criticism of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — not only from his reformist opponents, but also from senior conservatives who helped bring him to power but now say he is mismanaging the economy.
Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty, improve living standards and tackle unemployment. Now he is being challenged for his failure to meet those promises.
Reformists and even some fellow conservatives say Ahmadinejad has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-U.S. speeches and not enough on the economy — and they have become more aggressive in calling him to account.
In a rare gesture, Ahmadinejad admitted last week that inflation existed but blamed it on his predecessors, the conservative-dominated parliament, state-run media and bank managers who misused their power and printed too many bank notes.
"Inflation has its roots in the past," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech.
His comments were denounced from all sides, with economists and some fellow conservatives saying it is his policies that have led to higher prices. [...]
Even one prominent Ahmadinejad ally, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, reversed his usual strong support for the government and acknowledged that the president has made mistakes. Bahonar, a top behind-the-scenes hard-liner, is believed to have been a key engineer of the election campaign that brought Ahmadinejad to power.
Imagine how low A-Jad's stock would be if the Bush administration hadn't been playing the part of the useful, if unwitting, accomplice in terms of matching base-rallying bluster with base-rallying bluster. It is no secret that A-Jad profits politically from his confrontational style when it is mirrored by Bush administration officials. Sadly, the Bush administration has failed to grasp the wisdom of simply letting go of its end of the rhetorical tug-of-war rope - as Thomas Barnett urged, rather emphatically, more than two years ago.
Given the current electoral calendar in Iran:
Does anyone doubt that A-Jad will go to the well one more time? The only question is, will the Bush administration fill the bucket?
The growing discontent comes less than three months ahead of crucial parliamentary elections slated for March 14.