Thursday, June 25, 2009

Back story to the uprising: Ahmadinejad's consolidated grip

The Times has a crucial story by Neil MacFarquhar detailing the extent to which Ahmadinejad, like Stalin before him, has packed the security forces and bureaucracy with his loyalists and to a degree possibly outflanked even Khamenei:

During the presidential campaign of 2005, the supreme leader endorsed Mr. Ahmadinejad because the humble son of a blacksmith appeared to be just such an obscure candidate. But he entered the presidency with a coterie of veterans and ideologues shaped by the Iran-Iraq war who were conservative, religious, largely populist and disdainful of the old guard from the 1979 revolution.

Today, these allies, many of them former midlevel Revolutionary Guard officers in their 50s, run the Interior, Intelligence and Justice Ministries. They also include the commander of the Basij popular militia, the head of the National Security Council and the head of state-run broadcasting. They are aligned with another member of their generation who has emerged as the most important figure in the Khamenei camp, the spiritual leader’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei.

Mr. Ahmadinejad has also changed all 30 of the country’s governors, all the city managers and even third- and fourth-level civil servants in important ministries like the Interior Ministry. It was Interior that announced that Mr. Ahmadinejad had won the June 12 election with just 5 percent of the votes counted, analysts pointed out, and it is the Intelligence Ministry that has been rounding up scores of supporters of the reform candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, and other dissidents.

At the same time, Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s spiritual mentor, runs three powerful educational institutions in the holy city of Qum, all spun off from the Haqqani seminary, which teaches that Islam and democracy are incompatible. The ayatollah favors a system that would preserve the post of supreme leader and eliminate elections. The Ahmadinejad administration has provided generous government subsidies to the seminary, and its graduates hold significant government posts nationwide.

Perhaps the most important media organization to spread the government’s message is the hard-line Kayhan newspaper. Its general director, Hossein Shariatmaderi, in recent days has resurrected a standard accusation: that foreign governments were manipulating the demonstrations on Iran’s streets.
Iranians have been feeling the strings tighten throughout Ahmadinejad's term in office. As large segments of the population -- probably a majority -- have tried to throw the yoke off in this election and its aftermath, they've found a consolidated police state confronting them.

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