Iran: Corruption Scandal and Political Campaign
Ali Asghar Kazemi
June 10, 2008
Like many other phenomena, political struggle in Iran has its own peculiarities. While presidential elections is still away, skyrocketing inflation and other social evils are abreast, political entourage and devotees of the hard-line president are launching harsh propaganda campaign pointed upon corruption, racketeering and favoritism in the country. They are trying to find avenues to cover government’s mishandling nation’s affairs in order to divert public attention from the unbearable gloomy condition, misery and hardship to corrupt circles close to high echelon cleric and imminent personalities labeled as “mafia groups” in the Islamic regime!
Who are these mafia groups? What are the objectives behind recent revelations about corruptions allegations of high political figures? What are the plausible impacts of this premature campaign? Who will benefit from it?
We may recall that the incumbent president in Iran won the elections by focusing on a number of programs that pleased a great majority of the least favored people who were quite distressed about widespread Inflation, unemployment, poverty, corruption, drugs abuse, etc. Pretending to understand the causes of these social ills, he pledged to cure them through appropriate revolutionary and just policies. Unfortunately, after almost three long years in office, not only he failed to achieve his promises but all the malaises aggravated with an unprecedented momentum and citizens are left helpless in an ocean of hardship and misery.
Ever since the hard-line government came into power in Iran and attempted to solve various problems of the country by force and populist policies, inflation, unemployment and other social troubles got out of control in various sectors of the society. At first officials denied the whole quandary and blamed liberals and “fifth columns” of enemies for fabricating propaganda in order to weaken the “popular government.”
Gradually the matter became so flagrant and critical that even hard-line MP’s in the previous Parliament (Majles) started to nag and criticized the government for its failure in containing the galloping inflation. Finally the President and other high officials admitted to some extent the existence of these problems but, as expected, they tried to put the blame on domestic invisible evil hands (mafia groups) and extraneous factors for the anomalies.
Naturally, when inflation, unemployment, low-productivity and other consequential social impacts grow out of proportion in a religious state such as Iran, the matter requires serious attention. There is no doubt that a portion of the current price rises is due to the global inflation created by increasing oil prices, sanctions and adverse economic policies of great world powers. But, nobody can deny that mismanagement of the current government paved the path for widespread poverty, greed and corruption at different level of the society.
Thus, in order to remain in power for a second term, top government officials, including the president, started to raise the perennial history of corruption apparently beyond their power to cope with. In their belief, people will support once again such a bold and valiant president who earnestly wants to fight economic “mafia groups” who seem to outweigh the power of government.
Official media usually are forbidden to depict controversial issues aimed at discrediting the overall regime and its important figures. Yet from time to time, when bad news propagates as public rumors, only fractions of the problem are exposed in the media. With the lack of private independent radio and television stations, most daily papers have learned by experience not to cover controversial issues surpassing “the red lines”; fearing regime discontent which could be very costly. Nevertheless, when bad news pierces their way to mass media, one should expect storms of allegations and misinformation to emerge in order to neutralize the impacts.
Recent revelations by a dubious government official about corruption issue was indeed a very serious accusation against high religious and political figures which explicitly opened what the president had implied in his speech few weeks ago in the holy city of Qom. Quite naturally, the opposition groups inside and outside the country thoroughly capitalized on the matter. Perhaps the pro-government devotees did not anticipate such a harsh campaign to discredit the whole Islamic regime.
Obviously, the culprits directly responsible for the propaganda shock were arraigned a day after on the account of propagating deceptive information with the intent to dishonor the political system and to provoke people against the regime. Interestingly, the detainees were themselves charged with corruption and divulgation of classified official documents having impact on national security and defamation of high cleric public figures. Some representatives of the Islamic parliament correctly argued the rationale behind the arrest of committee members set up by the Majles to inquire into the corruption in the judicial branch. They are asking for clarification as to whether these charges are true or not disregard of the circumstances or persons who have uncovered the matters.
Impacts of these revelations would eventually be widespread; because the tremendous gap between the haves and have-nots has created an extremely hostile environment among people in big cities such as Tehran who really can’t afford their daily bread and are naturally very repulsive to the deplorable conditions. Without a doubt, the situation is susceptible to create clash between various layers of the society. There seems to be no chance that the government could tackle with the problem the way it has been doing so far. This will incite little people to solve their misery outside the realm of law, ethics and rationality.
Of course many descent and honest poor people may take the hardship as a misfortune, fate, and bad luck. But needy greedy populaces don’t see the matter this way and are tempted to revolt against such injustice in their own ways. Realizing to be unable to claim justice from the government, they will go after wealthy and opulent targets in order to put things straight and get their fare share. Car thefts, burglaries, assaults, larceny, bank robbery etc. are ordinary occurrences in big cities. In their view this is a handy way to get around poverty, injustice and unfair distribution of wealth and oil revenue promised by the president.
Throughout the history, clergies in Iran have had esteemed position in public eyes, because of their honesty, integrity, truthfulness and veracity. Ever since the Islamic regime ascended to political power, genuine spiritual leaders distanced themselves from official power circles and left the scene for opportunists, unscrupulous and deceitful people. Naturally, the lust of material rich pushes weak spirits toward corruption and other unethical earthly desires. This can make the whole social structure vulnerable and to risky situations which could uproot the entire political system in the long run. Centuries ago, Ibne-Khaldun, the renowned Muslim sociologist, has well predicted the matter and history has proven the case repeatedly.
Whether the recent scandal and revelations about “mafia groups” is a true and genuine fight against corruption and other social evils, or is just a political campaign for gaining the ballot boxes in the coming presidential elections, the matter is yet to be unfolded. But, one thing is crystal clear that the Islamic regime has lost its remaining credibility by these astonishing corruption leaks. /