Ahmadi Nezhad's denial of the Holocaust and anti-Israel stance have certainly won him the support of many Muslims in Asia and Africa.
Rome, June (Rah/Aki) One year after his election as Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad is in trouble. On the domestic front, Iran's economy has not recovered and the president's promise to re-distribute among the population part of the country's oil revenues has not been fulfilled. The Iranian government's international strategy to challenge the international community has on the other hand not given the expected results and the failure of Tehran's foreign policy has greatly contributed to deepen domestic rifts.
The creation of the Council for foreign policy strategies decided by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini on the first anniversary of Ahmadi Nezhad's victory is a sign of the government's difficulties in the international arena.
The new body will be headed by Kamal Kharrazi, who served as foreign affairs minister under the government of Mohammad Khatami, and includes another former foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, who is already the leader’s special advisor on foreign affairs, a former defence minister, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, a former trade minister, Mohammad Shari’atmadari, and the director of Tehran's Centre for contemporary historic studies, Mohammad Hossein Taromi.
The new council will have no executive power but will advise the government and the Supreme National Security Council, led by Ali Larijani, on the cabinet's foreign policy strategies, especially on the nuclear issue.
Iran's defiance of Western calls to halt its atomic programme, which the international community fears is aimed at building nuclear weapons, and Ahmadi Nezhad's denial of the Holocaust and anti-Israel stance have certainly won him the support of many Muslims in Asia and Africa.
However the president' stubborn stance on the nuclear issue has pushed some Middle Eastern countries - especially in the Persian Gulf - who are alarmed by the possible threat to their security, to forge closer ties with the West and in particular with the United States.
Ahmadi Nezhad's Iran represents today a real threat for its neighbours who, despite their statements on Iran's right to own nuclear technology, are putting pressure on the West, mostly on Britain and the United States, to forbid Tehran to own atomic weapons.
This isolation is worrying Tehran where many are starting to fear a conflict and believe Ahmadi Nezhad's government would be responsible.
The nuclear issue is not a priority for most Iranians, despite the government's propaganda.
The priority for Iranians is the economy. A year ago, Ahmadi Nezhad promised a more equal distribution of the country's riches, mostly of oil revenues among low-income families hit by inflation and unemployment.
Contrary to what the president had promised, Iranians will not benefit from the hike in oil prices, though as of September they will have to deal with petrol rationing. This will lead to a black market which many believe will be managed by the Revolutionary Guards corps, the Pasdaran, the president's main supporters.
Ahmadi Nezhad's election a year ago led to the fall of Tehran's stock market. Right after the president's victory was announced, the stock market lost 126 points. One week afterwards it had fallen by 466 points and in October last year it hit a record low, loosing 10,000 points.
The real threat for the government is however posed by ethnic minorities.
This year 60 percent of companies listed in Tehran's stock market have suspended trading.
The current government is also facing growing domestic opposition. Strikes and demonstrations have been reported in the past two months in almost all universities in the country - heightening a strong political malaise.
For the first time in 25 years the cabinet has had to deal with strikes called by independent unions.
Women have also staged protests calling for equal rights. On 8 March and 12 June dozens of female demonstrators were arrested for taking part in anti-government rallies.
The real threat for the government is however posed by ethnic minorities. In the past 12 months, Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis and Azeris have been staging many protests. Nationalist, separatist movements with these ethnic groups have organised demonstrations and attacks against the government, which has reacted with arrests and executions and has accused foreign powers, mostly Britain, of encouraging ethnic unrest.
In the Islamic Republic, where no single ethnic group counts for more than 50 percent of the population - the largest Persians make up for a little over 45 percent - minorities can represent a real threat to national unity and stability. ENDS AHMADI 27606
Editor’s note: Ahmad Rafat is a veteran Iranian-Italian journalist and political analyst. His last book, “The End of Spring”, about the situation of the press and journalists in Iran has won a great success.
The above article was posted by Adkronos on 26 June 2006
Some editing and highlights are by IPS