Saturday, December 26, 2009

Signs of Weakness in Iran

The botched election fraud in Iran this year cost the regime its legitimacy. Before that election, Iran was seen as a semi-functioning democracy, but that view has fallen away. After the current regime made only the barest pretense of counting the ballots in this year’s election, it will never be able to hold another election. The post-election government is still struggling to pull itself together amid internal feuding, while unrest continues on the streets, where people expect a declaration of martial law any day now.

But Iran did not become a failed state merely through bad decisions by its leaders. The people who really pull the strings in Iran, the diverse criminal organizations that operate under the umbrella of the Revolutionary Guard, are having trouble getting along with each other these days, and the reason is economic stress. The greater the degree of political stress Iran shows at street level, the more it tells of the country’s underlying economic weakness.

The solution to Iran’s very serious economic problems can only come with new ideas, and those ideas will mostly have to come from people under 40 years old. This is true simply because these are most of the people in the country, but it is also true that they are better educated than the aging criminal leaders who are running the country now. A generation gap, reminiscent of the United States in 1970, has the older generation in power unable to trust anyone under 40. This lack of trust, and the corresponding inability to delegate, results in important work not getting done. The situation is probably too fragile to evolve comfortably into some kind of new working order. Instead, Iran’s leaders need to undertake, as quickly as they can, the tough questions involved in rebuilding that country’s failing institutions.