Ahmadinejad’s Ire

The news from Tehran is disappointing. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s insistence on prosecuting and punishing the leaders allegedly responsible for the unrest, which followed the June 12 presidential election, is devoid of democratic spirit.

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Published: Sun 30 Aug 2009, 10:22 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:29 AM

On the other hand, it will provide an opportunity for the opposition’s rank-and-file to again take to the streets in furthering an agenda, which can prove detrimental to national interests. This is the time for reconciliation, and the president could have turned a new leaf by simply forgiving and forgetting the bitterness of the post-election discord. Regrettably, the call for proceeding with the prosecution of detained activists and leaders is vindictive in essence.

Ahmadinejad’s stance, surprisingly, is contrary to what the Supreme Leader had called for. Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei had urged release of all the detainees, and walking the extra mile for patching up with an aggrieved opposition. He had also shrugged off allegations of opposition playing in the hands of foreign powers, and reposed his trust in their integrity and political wisdom. But, now Ahmadinejad’s call for going ahead with the trial of opposition detainees reflects the split in his administration, as well as an ensuing discord with the powerful religious establishment.

The path that Ahmadinejad is treading can prove to be suicidal. It is also a snub to the largesse exhibited by opposition leaders, who had for the last few weeks muted their protest campaign, and hinted at a patch-up if their genuine grievances are addressed. Opposition presidential candidate Mir Hussain Mousavi and powerful cleric, close to the establishment, Ali Akbar Hashmi Rafsanjani had called for probing the misconduct of security agents over allegations of torture and rape. Heeding such a call would have doused the fire, and provided enough space to bury the hatchet. But that doesn’t seem to be a priority for the government, which is perhaps asking for more confrontation.

Iran is at the crossroads. Apart from the brewing domestic unrest, there is much more on the international front that Tehran needs to address instantly. Moreover, the September deadline set by the Group of Eight countries to come out with a revised strategy on its ambitious, but controversial, nuclear programme is just round the corner. Crippled under sanctions, Iranians are being made to pay for a policy and conduct, which is quite tolling. Soaring inflation, unemployment and a misbalanced growth syndrome are pushing the oil rich country into the abyss of poverty and instability.

The government has to respond to these symptoms with a perfect diagnosis. And that cannot come without ushering in an era of stability and growth. Political reconciliation at home and a serious fence mending exercise on the international front can help Iran successfully come out of the crisis. President Ahmadinejad’s off-the-cuff response to the opposition and a kneejerk reaction to the international community over its concerns on the nuclear programme need serious rethinking. Iran can do well by obliging both astutely.

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