Israel Hate Spells Trouble in Tehran
Quds Day in Iran is always marked by speeches noted for their anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric. This year was no exception. In a speech already condemned by Baroness Ashton – lead negotiator in the P5+1 talks on Iranian nuclear proliferation – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad labelled Israel a “malignant cancer” and the state’s endurance “an insult to all humanity”, adding that “the fake Zionist regime would soon fade away from geography and every inch of the occupied territories be returned to Palestinians”.
Ahmadinejad’s particularly vociferous and violent address in Tehran, however, signifies deeper problems on the home front. His aggressive language can be taken as a sign that the sanctions imposed by segments of the international community are working and the regime’s popularity is waning as a consequence.
When their grip on power loosens, leaders both democratic and autocratic often turn towards jingoism to rally the populace against another as a form of distraction. It is not coincidental, for example, that Argentinian leaders from General Galtieri to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner have suddenly remembered their need to regain the Falklands at times when economic conditions are taking a turn for the worse. The same can be said of Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to round up and deport thousands of Romany gypsies in the summer of 2010, when the unemployment rate in France was climbing and his approval rating slipping.
The exploitation of the Palestinian cause has always been a go-to point for Iranian leaders; that Ahmadinejad felt the need to be even more strident and transparent in his remarks this year is a sign that he feels he needs Israel as an enemy more than ever. Given the tenor of his address, never let it be said that his feelings on the existence of the Jewish state are not absolute.
Unfortunately at the same time, it is clear by extension that even as the Iranian people suffer as a consequence of sanctions, the regime cares above all for its longevity and will act accordingly – recall how, after the doctored 2009 presidential election, the Green Revolution was put down violently in its infancy.
At present, The Economist reports that inflation is rampant, the value of the rial has halved over the past year, and the cost of the most basic foodstuffs, clothes, and white goods has soared. Chicken, for instance, is now valued at three times the price it was one year ago and a black market has flourished in the sale of ill-gotten poultry.
The government, it would seem, would rather tell their people to stop eating chicken and censor its presence on television screens that end their pursuit of that most deadly weapon, an action which would result in the conclusion of sanctions and the return of chickens to every pot. A sign, perhaps, that the leadership in Tehran may do whatever it takes to remain in control.