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Khamenei's Angry Speech Betrays His Feeling Of Insecurity

A handout picture made available by the supreme leader office shows, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers his statement the occasion of Persian New Year for the nation, Iran, 21 March 2019
A handout picture made available by the supreme leader office shows, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers his statement the occasion of Persian New Year for the nation, Iran, 21 March 2019

In his first new year speech on March 21, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described U.S. leaders as "top idiots", called Western diplomats "savages," labelled Europeans as "traitors" and "back-stabbers". He also denounced Saudi Arabia as "the worst state" in the world.

He also called on the Iranian people to bear the cost of sanctions, adding that sanctions provided "opportunities" for Iran.

Another highlight of the angry speech was that the West cannot use Iran's missile program as a leverage to exert pressure on Tehran, stressing that Iran will not negotiate on its missile program.

Such an angry speech, showing the Iranian leader to be oblivious to the challenges besieging his regime, stems from the insecurity he feels and the urge to show he is charge.

In a way, the speech was meant to portray Khamenei as an epitome of resistance and inflexibility. His model of resistance is rather simple: His vision is is to create the capability to deter “the enemy”. The focal point of his ideal model is the missile program, and his solution for the country's other problems is jihadist economy.

According to Khamenei, the Islamic Republic's defensive capability is based on its missile program. Precision missiles are now Iran's powerful fist and deterrent weapon against the “enemy's aggression”.

He argued in his speech that sanctions led to the growth of Iran's scientific and practical capabilities, embodied in its missiles.

He also argued that the same model can be applied to the "economic war"; the regime's jargon for U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Khamenei said that his theory of "resistance economy" which is based on boosting domestic production can be the main pillar of this model. During the past ten years, it is the fourth time Khamenei labels domestic production in his customary "name of the year" routine.

He termed the year 2012 as the year of "national product, supporting Iranian labor and investment." The codename for 2017 was "resistance economy, production and employment," and 2018 was "The year of "supporting Iranian products." To be more precise, this is the third consecutive year Khamenei has been using the concepts of "domestic products" and "Iranian goods" in his name of the year game.

His prime audience in speeches like this are the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and its militia Basij. Last year, IRGC and Basij commanders vowed to be on the front-lines of boosting domestic production, the same way they were at the front-lines in Syria.

It is foreseeable that during the coming months the IRGC and its affiliates will suggest cooperating with the government in most major agricultural, animal husbandry and industrial projects. Such a move would signal the bankruptcy of Iran's private sector.

In 2012, labelled as the "Year of national production", 100,000 private sector workers lost their jobs as 8 of every 10 production units went out of business and employment rates declined sharply.

During the past 6 months, the media talked about a tsunami of bankruptcy of production units. MP Hamid Reza Fouladgar said in late January that "one-third of small businesses are no longer active and the remaining two-thirds are working at a level less than their actual capacity."

This is an experiment that has already failed, but why Khamenei does not stop chanting the same slogans? One reason has to do with his perception of how dangerous "threats" he is facing are. Of course, he is aware of issues such as security, regional threats, as well as social problems and political divides inside Iran. But focusing on the economy is a multi-purpose propaganda that portrays the economic threat as the country's biggest problem and puts the blame on the Rouhani administration.

Otherwise, Khamenei has no practical solution for Iran's problems other than a personal propaganda plan. His habit of putting labels on each calendar year is a psychological reaction, not a political agenda or an economic plan. During the past 20 years, he has shown a bigger psychological reaction to his feeling of insecurity every time he faced bigger domestic or international threats. His reaction has been one of creating a bigger image of himself and blaming others for problems caused by himself. His losing strategy has been fuelling power struggles inside the country and creating more enemies beyond Iran’s borders.

Insisting on his mistakes have turned his annual speeches into run-off-the-mill emotional rants rather than an opportunity to offer practical policy. Even state-run media have found it increasingly more difficult to put the leader’s words of wisdom into a strong spotlight.

The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Radio Farda
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    Reza Haqiqatnezhad

    Reza Haqiqatnezhad was a well-known journalist in Iran until he left the country a few years ago and he is now a political analyst at Radio Farda.