As the world deals with rampant totalitarianism after the foreign policy failures of the disastrous Obama administration and the undermining of American leadership, it is becoming all too common to see dictatorships use religion or rabid nationalism to hide their real agenda.
Leaders of the world’s rogue regimes have adopted a remarkably similar approach to remaining in power and becoming filthy rich at the same time. Consider Iran, a country whose government actively finances murder and destruction around the world as its own people live in poverty and deprivation. The neglect of real people’s needs also leads to the associated ills such as prostitution, homelessness and the selling of children and body parts. The result: the hopelessness and desperation many ordinary Iranians face.
Curiously, the regime’s own academics are highlighting these issues, which shows the depth of the problem in the slums and the countryside far the halls of power of Tehran. Simply put, autocrats love to keep the population deceived by visions of nationalist glory and religious martyrdom, all the while lining their own purses in offshore financial haven accounts.
A prominent Iranian economist employed by the regime, Hossein Raghfar, declared earlier this year that a third of Iran’s population lives in extreme poverty, while another 6 percent — nearly five million people — are close to starvation. He outlined his findings in an interview to the state-run Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) April 7, Payvand.com reported.
In short, what Iran labors under an oligarchic, authoritarian economic system, not unlike that in Russia or China. In Iran, however, there is also the added layer of religious oppression under Islam. In Iran, if you stray outside of the harsh justice of religious codes, you also can be punished, or even killed.
In Russia and China, the deal is that you can make as much money as you can as long as you don’t threaten the government’s hold on power. Of course, if you threaten an oligarch’s business, you may be in deep trouble as well, as he may just steal your business or worse to remove the threat. Iran has its share of businessmen who play the game by supporting the regime, all the while getting very wealthy off the benefits of their loyalty.
One such individual in Iran is Ali Ansari, who owns a variety of different types of businesses in the Iranian theocracy. His empire includes the largest commercial complex in Iran, the largest furniture maker, financial institutions such as TAT Bank and Investment Group and mobile communications. He is also currently constructing the Iran Mall, a massive shopping area that reportedly will be the largest central store in the world and requires a three-day stay just to take it all in.
Sources within Iran, such as IranNewsWire.com, have alleged that Mr. Ansari obtained his massive wealth by bribing officials with the aid of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Mr. Ansari is alleged to have close ties with regime figures such as Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahrodi, Mohammad Jawad and Mohammad Bagher Larijani. He is also reported to have funded many of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorist operations in the Middle East.
With the paradox of extreme poverty and extreme wealth, an inequality only sharpened by Barack Obama’s misguided 2015 nuclear deal with the mullahs, the Trump administration was of course right to withdraw from the agreement. Iran’s growing social divisions give the Trump administration another avenue of attack with the reimposition of sanctions that target Iran’s maligned activities overseas. The injustice the people of Iran are facing needs to be highlighted.
The previous administration never even tried to exploit the opportunities Iran’s internal contradictions presented. The Trump administration will not blow the same chance.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.