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Editor’s Note: FMSO’s Operational Environment Watch provides translated selections and analysis from a diverse range of foreign articles and other media that analysts and expert contributors believe will give military and security experts an added dimension to their critical thinking about the Operational Environment.
Source: “Va‘dehha-ye 17 March 2012 sarkharmin.” (“Promises of a Harvest,”) Jahan News (World News). 17 March 2012.
Michael Rubin: When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerged from seemingly nowhere to capture the Iranian presidency in 2005, American officials were dumbfounded. Whereas his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, sought to assuage the West with talk of ‘dialogue of civilizations’, Ahmadinejad was crude and coarse. He called the Holocaust a fiction, promised Israel’s annihilation, and spoke about hastening the return of the Hidden Imam, Shi‘ite Islam’s messianic figure. Nevertheless, at least initially, Ahmadinejad enjoyed remarkable popularity at home. He exploited long-simmering resentment about the aghazadehs (sons of important people) who catapulted their fathers’ political connections into wealth and power. What many Americans simply called hardliners, Iranians called usulgarayan (principalists), meaning those who reclaimed the social justice roots of the Islamic Revolution. To the poor and working class, Ahmadinejad was an attractive figure. While former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is a billionaire and Khatami and many reformists enjoyed lives of luxury, Ahmadinejad led an ascetic lifestyle. Television broadcast images of him at home, sitting and eating on a bare floor. He spoke often of social justice and empowering the dispossessed. He painted himself as a man of the people, undertaking an extensive tour of provinces and districts, during which he would hold open town halls and dramatically hand over suitcases filled with cash to local governors to address the problems about which he had heard.
Over the years, however, the Iranian public has become increasingly cynical about how few of Ahmadinejad’s promises he actually fulfills. Even within his own hardline camp his supporters are often at wit’s end. It is in this context that the hardline daily Jahan News’ “Promises of a Harvest” is so interesting. The author recalls 12 promises Ahmadinejad made over the course of the previous year and notes that on issues great and small Ahmadinejad’s administration has simply failed to deliver. At the same time the list provides insight into the troubles which consume ordinary Iranians beyond the contentious international issues of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Inflation is taking its toll as the currency plummets; factory workers remain unpaid; a house with a garden remains a distant dream for many Iranian families; and air pollution makes the quality of life for those stuck in cramped Tehran apartments even worse. Almost every ex-Iranian president has remained active in politics following the end of his term, and few have left office with such a negative legacy on domestic issues as Ahmadinejad.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.
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