Iran is facing a threat even more severe than the Stuxnet computer virus, a sophisticated line of code which was reportedly sponsored by the U.S. and Israel, and which destroyed some of Iran’s uranium centrifuges in 2010. In Persian, this affliction is called Siyasat Bazee – in English, playing politics…

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has played politics too, perhaps more so than anybody else. Part of the strength of his leadership is based on keeping different political factions divided, so that they don’t become strong enough to challenge him. This has encouraged intense infighting, where each faction tries to outmaneuver the other with Siyasat Bazee instead of working together collectively to tackle Iran’s problems.

In fact, it is Khamenei’s politicization of the nuclear program which has hurt his regime the most. He does not permit deviation from, or open debate about, the official line on the direction of the program. Khamenei has taken what is essentially a nationalistic project that enjoyed widespread consensus and turned it into a divisive issue. Khamenei’s Siyasat Bazee with the nuclear program has weakened the regime and crippled its performance in the face of economic challenges.