Is his unsparing description of the present trouble a document of hopelessness? Is the Islamic Republic now beyond reform?

Karroubi answers neither Yes nor No to that question. He writes: "I believe the Islamic Republic can only be reformed if truly free elections are held – without pre-vetted candidates and without interference from above. And if all are equal before the law, regardless of  the person or their post" – impossible demands for the time being.

A political indictment

The picture Karroubi paints of the Islamic Republic is appalling, bleak and desolate. According to official figures, ten million Iranians live under the poverty line and Karroubi claims that their situation will dramatically worsen day by day if what the Iranian Department of the Environment has predicted actually comes to pass.

The shrinking wetlands of Shadegan, Iran (photo: asiran)
Ongoing drought and desertification in Iran: if the country does not fundamentally improve its water management, 50 million Iranians will have to abandon their hometowns over the next 20 years, warns Issa Kalantari, head of the Iranian department of the environment

Issa Kalantari, head of the department, has warned several times since taking office last summer that if Iran does not fundamentally improve its water management, 50 million Iranians will have to abandon their hometowns over the next 20 years. The country has used up 97 percent of its ground water and if the current drought persists, Iran will gradually turn into a desert, says Kalantari.

And he should know. Because the 65-year-old is an agricultural and environmental expert who studied in the USA and was Iran's Minister of Agriculture for nearly 20 years. "I have written to the honourable leader of the republic: first solve the water problem before you promote a family policy designed to increase the population to 150 million," Kalantari already said at his inauguration last August. But Supreme Leader Khamenei is still set on raising the birth rate and stemming the growing rate of divorce.

Khamenei mainly to blame

Karroubi addressed his letter to Ali Khamenei because he rightly blames him the most for the desperate impasse the country finds itself in. His letter therefore begins with a quote from Khamenei's last speech in which he chided the country's former and current presidents, saying it was not right to hold responsible government positions for decades and then later act as members of the opposition.

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