Iran is in the throes of one of its most ferocious crackdowns on dissent in years, analysts say. with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women's rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.The report in today's IHT on the latest developments in Iran also notes, "To the political crackdown, Ahmadinejad adds a messianic fervor, telling students in Qum this month that the Muslim savior would soon return." Some analysts believe that it is his belief in the imminent return of the Mahdi and the period of global chaos that is prophesied to precede the Islamic redeemer's return that lies behind some of Ahmadinejad's more provocative statements and actions. For, by fomenting international conflict, the Iranian president may well believe he is accelerating the divine timetable for the end-times.
The shift is occurring against the backdrop of an economy so stressed that although Iran is the world's second-largest oil exporter, it is on the verge of rationing gasoline. At the same time, the nuclear standoff with the West threatens to bring new sanctions.
The hard-line administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the analysts said, faces rising pressure for failing to deliver on promises of greater prosperity from soaring oil revenue. It has been using U.S. support for a change in government as well as a possible military attack as the pretext to hound his opposition and its sympathizers.
Some analysts described the government's reaction as a "cultural revolution," an attempt to roll back the clock to the time of the 1979 revolution, when the newly formed Islamic Republic combined religious zeal and anti-imperialist rhetoric to assert itself as a regional leader.
Another reason why lifting economic sanctions rather than imposing tougher sanctions might be a wiser approach to the current, ongoing crisis.