The false notes of Khamenei’s New Year’s address

Khamenei and the regime at large can no longer evade responsibility for the state of affairs in Iran.
Sunday 25/03/2018
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Mashad, on March 21. (Reuters)
Fiasco of governance. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Mashad, on March 21. (Reuters)

Almost four decades after the Islamic Republic of Iran was established, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dedicated his March 21 New Year’s address to surveying the “track record of the revolution.” Khamenei observed that the regime has not reached its full potential but he exonerated himself from responsibility for the shortcomings.

He is right on the first account and dead wrong on the second.

“Today, there is freedom of speech in our country,” Khamenei claimed but there is no freedom after speech. “No one is pressured, threatened or persecuted because his thought and viewpoints are opposed to the regime,” Khamenei said but he failed to explain the grounds on which thousands of political prisoners are held at Evin Prison and detention centres all over Iran. What grounds could there be if not charges for opposing the regime?

“Elections in our country are among the most unique elections in the world,” Khamenei said. On that count, he is right. Where else in the world does the government disqualify candidates by the thousands before allowing a small number of trusted apparatchiks to run for public office? Where else in the world do presidential candidates who challenge the regime’s preferred candidate endure house arrest, slander and public humiliation?

“Democracy rules in our country,” Khamenei claimed but Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, candidates in the 2009 presidential election and still under house arrest, are living refutations of the supreme leader’s claim.

With reference to social justice, Khamenei admitted: “Our ideal and the hope of the Muslim nation is not yet realised.” However, instead of accepting responsibility, he pointed at “certain authorities of ours.” They are “lazy,” he said, and not committed to the cause and “our lack of resolve in the fight against corruption.”

If Khamenei tolerates social injustice and widespread corruption, is he not complicit? Could the supreme leader not be said to be just as guilty as those who disregard the sufferings of disadvantaged Iranians on account of systematic corruption?

The supreme leader struck other false notes in his New Year’s address. If “supporting Iranian workers and Iranian products” was the main message, leading him to call for cutting unnecessary imports from abroad, why does Iran continue to bring in Turkish manure? Why do regime officials import luxury cars from Europe rather than drive Iranian automobiles? Does the supreme leader not know or does he not want to know?

“One of our problems is consumerism,” Khamenei declared. “One of our problems is waste and excessive spending. One of our problems is extreme leisure and aristocratic behaviour.” That problem surely lies elsewhere. The impoverished Iranians who took to the streets in protest in December and January did not do so out of consumerism, wastefulness, excessive spending, leisure or aristocratic behaviour. They ran the risk of being shot by police because they judged it better than having no bread.

Turning to regional issues, Khamenei said: “International busybodies, those who want to interfere in internal affairs all over the world, are protesting against the intervention of Iranians in the affairs of Iraq, Syria and the like… Well, that is none of your business…! Our presence was solicited by the governments and nations of the region… They asked for our assistance and we helped them.”

The supreme leader’s crushing riposte to questions about Iran’s foreign policy may not satisfy those hungry protesters who risked life and limb even as they chanted: “Let Syria be, think about us!”

Almost four decades after the 1979 revolution, Khamenei and the regime at large can no longer evade responsibility for the state of affairs in Iran. The supreme leader and the regime are to blame for the fiasco of governance.