Friday, June 29, 2007

Is there going to be a Revolution in Iran?

For some time now I and many others have been hearing about rumblings on the streets of Tehran, and indeed other parts of Iran. The population of Iran is becoming younger by the day and frankly they are not happy.

Iran is a religious country full of traditions, but people do need jobs and frankly the economy stinks. Inflation is running at 20 to 30%. Not an issue that would bring about a revolution on its own, but it adds to the mix. Then there is unemployment which is high and growing, disaffection with the rules of the theocracy and last but not least the sudden imposition of petrol rationing.

Iran does not have much in the way of refining capacity so although it produces and exports a lot of oil, it does not produce petrol. The problem here is that it then has to import petrol, which it then subsidises, at immense cost to the treasury. Iran is running out of the cash to buy petrol.

Obviously the answer is simple, or at least it should be, Iran has some very clever scientists capable of building some test nuclear plant and clearly seems to think it has the money to do so, so it clearly can and indeed ought to develop its own refineries. It isn't. Instead it is spending vast amounts of money not only on its own defence, but a nuclear program which is causing the country immense problems and money on mucking about in other peoples countries as well, like hundreds of millions of dollars to Hezbollah to fund the rebuilding the the Lebanon, a war which the average Iranian in the street did not ask for or want to be involved in.

Iran's economy is slowly collapsing when it should be reaching dizzying heights. It is doing so because Iran's government has grand plans of its own. The people don't care. They want jobs and security.

So what happened when petrol was rationed? Well the rationing was imposed without consultation or advanced warning to anyone, including the petrol station owners or the police. The result was riots and petrol stations being burnt down. The text messaging service has been closed down so that people can't organise protests and journalists are being ordered not to report any trouble. Clearly the government is under pressure.

What the Iranian government needs right now is some external threat to unite the people. It had that in the sabre rattling over its nuclear plans, and it helped. We need to remove the obvious threats to Iran so that it can't unite its people (as well as making sure they can a news service that tells them how bad things really are in Iran). In short we need to appear to take the pressure off.

That does not mean we stop working on its nuclear program, it just means we do so quietly and carefully so as not to give the Iranian regime ammunition to unite the Iranian people behind it.

The BBC has this on the fuel protests.


james higham said...

The major problem is the madman at the top whom other Muslim nations just cannot deal with. The youth may grumble but that's a far cry from revolution. The mullahs have a tight grip.

Benedict White said...

james higham, The Mullahs have a tight grip yes, but not that tight.

Marquee Mark said...

"The population of Iran is becoming younger by the day"

I don't think they are! Average age perhaps...

Saudi Arabia has a similar population profile - a huge proportion of its people being young - and with pressures growing to find them jobs, houses, infrastructure. Some of the underlying problems which make Blair's new task in the Middle East close to impossible.

CityUnslicker said...

errr. remember Tianamen Square. I don't think strong governments have to worry to much about popular revolts.

Andy Cooke said...


As pointed out by Punter, you're linked from Andrew Sullivan, at :

Hazar Nesimi said...

revolution requires opposition to a regime, all of the opposition has a broad anti-western consensus , it is clear that slow decline is most likely. Reformers did not deliver, "Radicals" als will not deliever. Ayatollahs, around Hamenei should and will be more sensible... Akhmadinejad may be impeached and replaced in a few years, unless there is attack on Iran.