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.
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.
The position of Iran, in terms of the country’s structural corruption, can be explained by the annual research study, conducted by the German-based Transparency International, specializing in measurement of the degree of corruption prevailing in different countries of the world. Of 176 countries examined by the Transparency International in 2016, Iran’s position was 131 — at the same level as: Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Nepal.
Iran’s corruption is more structural and ideologically oriented than the one resulting from nepotism or individual petty corruption. Corruption in Iran has dominated the economy to the point that in the spring of 2001, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, issued a decree, famously known in Iran as “The Eight Point Executive Decree of the Supreme Leader.” This Executive Order contained eight articles addressing the public officials’ duties concerning combating public corruption. This decree ordered the officials “to adopt a policy with respect to destroying the financial and economic roots of corruption by the actions of the executive and judicial powers of the country.” This decree has not changed the pattern of the entitlements, of the pseudo-charity organizations, nor the scheme of the distribution of resources in Iran. In final analysis, Iran’s social upheaval, to borrow a term from Yale Law School Professor Susan Rose Ackerman, echoes the “patrimonial corruption” in that country.
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. A central element of the nuclear deal that was agreed by, now professor of Yale University, John Kerry, was to unfreeze $100 billion into revival of Iran’s economy. It has not worked. Most of that money has vanished into the ideological institutions and commercial structures as explained earlier. As Professor Arang Keshavarzian, of New York University, has indicated, in Iran “[c]compounding the handle on the Mafia is rooted in military and security power centers, the conspicuous consumption of honest scrupulous speculators, and the structures of international sanctions. The large commercial groups have generated a class of profiteers, often collaborating with partners in Dubai, Turkey and beyond”. That is why the demonstrations took place primarily in towns other than Tehran. 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. Approximately three years after Iran entered the nuclear deal with the 5+1 countries, its economy grew by 7 percent in 2016. However, 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. These are the reasons for the highly alert, broadly educated, but economically disadvantaged people, marching on the streets in various towns in Iran—that have been protesting the steep rise on the price of eggs.
Considering the above note, the fundamental question is “what is the reasonable projection of the future for the Islamic Republic of Iran”? To answer this question, we must review, albeit briefly, the ideological roots of the current Iranian government.