Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Saturday, July 17, 2010

More division in Iran

Political cleavages among Iran's ruling elites are becoming more evident.

Iran’s President Now Aims at Rivals Among Conservatives
Having successfully suppressed the opposition uprising that followed last summer’s disputed presidential election, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters are now renewing their efforts to marginalize another rival group — Iran’s traditional conservatives.

Conservative rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad are fighting back, publicly accusing him of sidelining clerics and the Parliament, pursuing an “extremist” ideology, and scheming to consolidate control over all branches of Iran’s political system...

Mr. Ahmadinejad has often fed the traditional conservatives’ fears; he has referred to the divide among conservatives…

“I think we are seeing a kind of Iranian McCarthyism, with Ahmadinejad disposing of all the people who are not with him by accusing them of being anti-revolutionary or un-Islamic,” said an Iranian political analyst, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution...

The rift is partly a generational one, with Mr. Ahmadinejad leading a combative cohort of conservatives supported by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. On the other side is an older generation of leaders who derive their authority from their links to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. Reformist lawmakers now represent a largely impotent minority in the Parliament...

The older conservatives, including clerics, lawmakers and leaders of the bazaar, which is the center of Iran’s ancient system of trade and commerce, have long questioned Mr. Ahmadinejad’s competence and even accused his ministers of corruption. But recently they have gone further, accusing Mr. Ahmadinejad’s faction of distorting the principles of the Islamic Revolution and following a messianic cult that rejects the intermediary role of the clergy...

The divisions erupted last month when conservative members of Parliament voted to block Mr. Ahmadinejad’s efforts to seize control of Iran’s largest academic institution, Azad University, which has campuses throughout the country and enormous financial assets. The university was founded by Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, a former president and one of the central figures among traditional conservatives...

Since then, another front has opened up against the administration. Members of Iran’s merchant class, the bazaaris, have risen up to challenge Mr. Ahmadinejad’s plans to squeeze them for more tax revenue. Tehran’s central Grand Bazaar, a vast, labyrinthine complex of arched tunnels and courtyards, has been closed in protest for more than a week, and the strike has spread to other major cities.

Though the political dimension of this dispute has yet to fully take shape, Iran’s merchant class has strong links with the traditional conservative party, the Motalefeh, whose members also have crucial positions in Azad University. Mr. Rafsanjani was once a member of Motalefeh and continues to maintain strong links with it…

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