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Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Real Iran

There's quite a bit of news we don't read in our newspapers about Iran. Primary sources might offset that lack, and MEMRI is a great place to go for primary sources. As Howard of Oraculations wrote a while ago, Iran is still an oligarchy economically. Socially it seems to be something of an oligarchy allied to a theocracy. Amir Taheri wrote a very important article recently about the labor unrest and the Iranian government's attempt both to suppress and to co-opt it.

I don't find Iran's political and economic situation reassuring, because the powerful blocs of large landholders and business interests of Italy and Germany gave rise to the fascist regimes of Italy and Germany in the interval between WWI and WWII. Given the same conditions ( severe unrest among the laboring population which appears to be a threat to the vested, powerful interests of landholders and businessmen), I believe a similar outcome is likely.

Here's what one Iranian satirist had to say about Ahmadinejad's platform:
In the six months [since your election], you have changed [Iranian] policy several times, because you didn't write things down. Weren't you supposed to fight the oil mafia? Weren't you supposed to free Iran's economy from the plague of the families [who control] the oil? Weren't you supposed to bring the oil profits to the people? Weren't you supposed to wipe Israel off the face of the earth? Weren't you supposed to propose a new program for U.N. reform? Weren't you supposed to give wedding loans [to young couples]?"
...
I fear that just as you forgot last week, due to political Alzheimer's, that during the election [campaign] you promised to bring the oil [profits] to the people and then denied you had said any such thing - that in another three months you will announce that Iran intends to nationalize the state's pistachio [industry], and will completely forget that 'nuclear energy is our inalienable right.' And that in another six months you will announce that we were never meant to enrich uranium, and that uranium enrichment was the policy of [former president] Khatami, aimed at harming the Hidden Imam.
...
[...] You have already said, several times, that we intend to take the running of the world upon ourselves. Three days ago, you said that with a minor effort and within a short time Iran could become a superpower. Did you mean a real superpower, like China or America? Or, when you said superpower, did you mean great powers like England, France, Germany, or Russia? Or perhaps you meant a superpower like Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Lebanon?
...
Of course, as a very proud Iranian, you certainly must know how Iran can become a superpower.

This is what must be done:

"A. The superpowers are run by great minds, either because they use their own great minds, or because they bring in other [great] minds. You don't use other minds, and you make thinking minds flee Iran [...] With which minds, then, do you think we can become a superpower?

B. We can become a superpower without using our mind by using our work force, like the Chinese. But this is difficult. First of all, the country's population must increase 20-fold (and this alone will take at least 150 years) - alternatively, the country needs to increase its territory five-fold [...] So we need at least another 200 years before we can become a superpower.

C. Do you think that any country can become a superpower with Ahmadinejad as president? I don't want to judge [on this matter], since [the answer] must be clear to you...

I hope that you manage to make Iran a superpower before it is completely destroyed.
And here's an excerpt from an Iranian TV program:
The following are excerpts from a dance celebrating Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities, aired on the Iranian news channel on April 11, 2006.

Young men: "Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar."

Speaker: "God is great. It has been proven that God is the great supporter of the Iranian people."

Young Men: "Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar."

Speaker: "Dear viewers, guests, and listeners, this is the cry of Allah Akbar by the zealous young men of the Iranian people. These young people here represent various ethnic groups of the Iranian people."

Young men: "Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar".

Speaker: "On the cold nights, when we were feverishly striving for the triumph of the Islamic revolution, we used to say Allah Akbar. In the days of the war of defense we shouted Allah Akbar. In all moments of collective steadfastness we shouted Allah Akbar. Now we repeat the same eternal slogan: Allah Akbar. Is this not your slogan? Don't you say Allah Akbar?"

Young men and crowd: "Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar."

Speaker: "I'd like to invite the deputy supervisor of the Imam Reza Shrine, my honorable brother, Mr. Alavi, who proudly wears the uniform of the Imam Reza Shrine. I would like to call him to the stage. He will be presented with a container with the first nuclear product of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"Mr. Alavi, if you please. Please honor this occasion by reciting prayers to the Prophet and his family.

"With the permission of the supervisor of the Imam Reza Shrine... Deputy Supervisor of the Imam Reza Shrine, Mr. Alavi, will now come to the stage and receive a container with UF6, produced in the nuclear facilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Oh honorable people, and all who witness this occasion, remember that we have no mystery besides Allah Akbar, and we have no secret besides the greatness of God and this conviction. Mr. Alavi, if you please. Honor this occasion by saying Allah Akbar."

Crowd: "Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar."
I'm sure Ahmadinejad could do better if he only had Leni Riefenstahl to assist, but it's not a bad attempt at an Iranian "Triumph of The Nuclear Islamic Will".

And here are some excerpts from Amir Taheri's column in Arab News:
Ali Rabi’ee, a labor adviser to former President Muhammad Khatami, addressed a crowd of workers in unmistakably political terms. He charged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s new administration with trying to destroy the workers’ movement in Iran.

What was remarkable about this year’s May Day parade was that it included delegations of workers from all of Iran’s 30 provinces.
...
Despite the fact that independent trade unions are illegal in the Islamic republic, informal labor organizations have sprung up in many industries and led dozens of strike actions, affecting many walks of life, over the past year or so. By far the most dramatic strikes in the past few months have concerned primary school teachers and bus drivers and conductors in Tehran.
...
an estimated 12 million workers, out of a work force of some 25 million, have virtually no social protection, health coverage, or pension scheme.

The employers including in the massive public sector, know that widespread unemployment, estimated officially to stand around 10.6 percent, means that they can always have access to an abundant source of cheap and vulnerable labor. This is especially so because unemployment rate for workers aged between 15 and 25 is estimated at over 40 percent.
...
Labour Minister Jahromi, however, believes that the only sector of the economy that really matters is the oil industry. His theory is that as long as oil continues to flow the Islamic republic will have enough money to import whatever is needed and to keep its hardcore of support mobilized with generous subsidies and cash handouts.

This is why Jahromi has devised a scheme to increase the number of oil workers by thousands to be recruited from among “those committed to our revolution.” The idea is that, over time, a majority of oil workers would be people with special bonds to the regime.
To avoid revolution, those 15 to 25 year-olds have to be brought into alignment with the administration somehow, and history suggests the formation of Iranian brownshirts - unofficial political soldiers paid by the oil families in an attempt to forfend revolution and dispossession.

This is not a stable country. The problem is that Ahmadinejad's bluff will fail within five years. Global oil prices are going to go down because supply is increasing faster than demand, and alternative energy will continue to be developed because of the high price of crude. The necessity to bring in huge revenues means that these revenues must fall - as the price increases the market will act. In the short term, Ahmadinejad is counting on help from South American communists and other regimes which profit (like Russia). But within two to three years, Iran's oil revenues will start to drop. That is the source of the desperate drive to develop nuclear power.

Ahmadinejad will continue to have support from the oil families as long as he can bring in the money, and so he must be able to widen his influence over the oil supply. So he turns to nuclear weapons, and appeals to other Islamic countries that it is in the cause of Islam's fight against the west. What is now bluff will become reality if he succeeds. But Ahmadinejad cannot get off this merry-go-round, and if he does (as the satirist suggests), the vested interests of Iranian society will seek another Ahmadinejad.


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