Q. How do you see the situation in
A. The situation today is one of gridlock, or stalemate. The fundamental cleavages that created the mess in
I don't think anyone doubts that there will be a large presence of people in the streets, and that should be attributed to the fact that people's anger at the direction of the country is not something transient. That's why I say that even if there is a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, or if there is a silent protest and the government manages to portray that silent protest not as a protest but as actually support for the ideals of the
Q. Are you surprised that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not made any overt effort at compromise? Is he afraid, as some people say, of repeating the Shah's "mistakes" and being seen as too lenient?
A. There is no doubt that one of the main reasons for the unyielding approach taken after the June elections to the protests was based on the argument that one has to deal with these kind of protests harshly and in a determined fashion, because if you don't they will get out of control and ultimately will lead to a situation where the protesters will question the foundations of the
People have also talked about his personality and his inability to back down when he is under pressure. At this time the inability to think in creative ways to overcome the gridlock has become itself the problem. That is why from a variety of corners--whether from the leaders of the protests themselves or former presidents
A. I'm not sure if it's arrogance in this context. It may be true that there is an attempt to redirect attention away from domestic problems toward the nuclear issue. But the reality of the political dynamics in
The constraint on the Iranian side is the reality that the Iranian domestic scene was not ready for any accommodation to the outside world before there was a domestic accommodation. In other words, it appeared to its domestic critics that the Ahmadinejad government sought a compromise with the outside world as a means of overcoming its injured legitimacy at home. That kind of thinking, in effect, assured that any attempt at compromise on the nuclear issue would be undercut or contested by
From the Iranian (regime's) point of view, what has happened in
Q. How bad is the Iranian economy?
A. The Iranian economy, like other economies in the world, is facing serious issues. In the last couple of years, the Iranian economy had become used to higher export oil prices; therefore it has to adjust to lower prices. But then there is this other reality that for several years Iranian decision makers have been trying to come to terms with a huge subsidy system which has become a tremendous burden on Iranian government outlays. In the past two months, the parliament finally put into law a subsidy reform legislation that is expected to go into law by April. That in itself is a difficult dynamic for
Q. Do the political divisions affect the economy?
The protest leaders have told Mr. Khamenei that his inability to manage this situation is caused by the fact that he has been convinced by people who are radical to pursue policies which have actually aggravated internal divisions rather than guide
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