IranIran’s uprising—a case of patrimonial corruption, pt. 2

By John Changiz Vafai

Published 12 February 2018

Iran’s corruption is more structural and ideologically oriented than the one resulting from nepotism or individual petty corruption. The grievances expressed by the ordinary Iranians on the streets of various towns, reflect the structural corruption that have resulted in a grave disparity in distribution of resources for the ordinary people. Because of the structural and patrimonial corruption, mismanagement, and preferential treatment of its citizens, Iran’s economic growth after the nuclear deal has benefited only the well-connected few. The demonstrations took place primarily in towns other than Tehran, and the demonstrators were not solely students demanding change on government’s policies concerning basic human rights and political freedoms. The demonstrators have been asking for an affordable price of groceries.

This is the second part of “Iran’s uprising—a case of patrimonial corruption.” See pt. 1 in HSNW, 9 February 2018.

The decision-making in Iran requiring financial expenditures is not limited to issues related to policymaking within Iran. It could permeate, and at times influence, Iran’s major foreign policy issues— including the ones the country faces in the Middle East. For example, after the ISIS terrorists’ defeat in Syria, Iran is preparing to co-operate in Syria militarily and financially with the European community. That is, Iran will participate in post-war reconstruction of Syria. Russia’s representative to the European Union, Vladimer Chizhov, has reportedly urged that not only the EU but also “Iran should contribute to the postwar reconstruction of Syria.” Iran’s participation in reconstruction of Syria will provide another enormous income opportunity for the Islamic Republic’s extra-constitutional institutions and “charity-based” companies to engage in vastly profitable reconstruction activities of Syria. However, the benefits are not going to be seen or felt by those who demonstrated in various towns of Iran, lamenting on the steep rise in price of basic goods.

In addition to the economic deprivations derived from structural corruption, there exist individuals in Iran that because of their special influence, clerical command, and bureaucratic power, have been able to engage in various acts resulting in unjust enrichment for themselves and their cronies. One example of this category of individuals is Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran’s judicial branch of the government. Ayatollah Larijani has amassed a considerable amount of wealth because of his position in Iran’s judiciary. Ayatollah Larijani, his brothers, Ali Larijani, (Speaker of the House) President Rohani, (plus ten other individuals) are the members of the powerful Supreme National Security Council of Islamic Republic of Iran. On 23 May 2012, Ayatollah Larijani was put into sanction list of the European Union. However, President Obama did not follow suit. Finally, in January 2018 President Trump, joined the European Union and sanctioned Ayatollah Larijani for allegedly human rights abuses and involvement in punishing demonstrators who, in various occasions, participated in anti-government rallies, protesting throughout the country.