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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-07-2009, 01:00 AM Thread Starter
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FOCUS: IRAN: AFTER THE REVOLUTION

FOCUS: IRAN: AFTER THE REVOLUTION
Economy tops agenda in Iran
By Alireza Ronaghi in Tehran

Conservatives in parliament say Ahmadinejad's economic policies damage Iran's legacy [EPA]


For the first time in many years, Iranians will turn away from the geopolitics which have dominated discourse since the Islamic revolution in 1979 and focus instead on the state of their economy.

In 1979, with the overthrow of the Shah and rise of the Ayatollahs still fresh in their memories, Iranians could not have imagined that a year later they would be locked in a bitter war with Iraq.

In the 1990s, Iran was part of the US administration's dual-containment policy and then became branded as a member of the axis of evil. After 9/11 Iran dominated world headlines as its nuclear programme became the springboard for all discussion on the Islamic republic.

However, as Iranians mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, politics will be overshadowed by economic hardships which have arisen partly due to plummeting oil prices and the world banking crisis.

Iran under sanctions

Economy will overshadow the nuclear programme as an issue this year [GETTY]
In 2008, the UN Security Council passed two more resolutions on Iran's nuclear programme and international sanctions, bringing to five the total number of resolutions since the standoff with the West started.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, remained defiant and said: "Issue as many resolutions as you want. Pass [and collect] resolutions until your 'resolution pouch' bursts."

Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation announced that it was planning to install 6,000 centrifuge machines to double its uranium-enriching capacity from the previous year.

While sanctions failed to coerce Tehran into curbing its nuclear programme they did, however, shield Iran's economy from the global economic recession - momentarily.

Nearly five years of record-high oil prices helped Iran's government increase public spending in an effort to protect the local economy from the global financial meltdown.

However, this policy was strongly criticised by many economists who warned about rising inflation and called for more economic discipline and less spending.

Controversial economic plans

In spite of the warnings, Ahmadinejad pressed on with his controversial economic plans, which included forcing banks to lower their interest rates and offer cheap loans to small businesses.

This led to a high-level resignation in the government's economic team.

Tahmasb Mazaheri, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), who had successfully controlled the spiraling liquidity growth by tightening the grip on credit loans to government banks, resigned in September.

He had been in office for about a year and his resignation inflamed the already existing economic differences among the conservatives in power.

The conservatives, who had always praised Ahmadinejad's achievement on the international scene and his ability to march the masses against world powers' will to scupper Iran's nuclear ambitions, distanced themselves from his economic plans.

Ahmadinejad has become increasingly alone in his economic battle.

Parliamentary elections

Ali Larijani is one of the most vocal critic of Ahmadinejad's economic polisies [EPA]
In 2008, Iran held its eighth parliamentary elections since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Reformists dominated the parliament between 2000 and 2004, but they were defeated by conservatives as many of their potential candidates were disqualified by the conservative Guardians Council, a 12-member constitutional watchdog.

It accused reformists of trying to "deconstruct" the Islamic government and roll back the ideals of the revolution.

Second-ranking reformist candidates failed to secure even a third of the 290-seat parliament.

However, despite winning parliament's majority for another four years, defections within the conservative camp left few reasons for celebration.

The new parliamentarians soon proved that they were not going to follow in the footsteps of the elders who had been at the heart of the revolution.

Damaging economic policies

The defections posed a challenge to Ahmadinejad who had enjoyed nearly unconditional support and was almost unquestioned when it came to his economic policies.

After the elections, many of the conservative MPs said his economic policies were damaging. This brought the critics closer to their reformist rivals and resulted in the election of Ali Larijani, Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator, as parliament's new speaker.

Larijani resigned from his position as nuclear chief over differences with Ahmadinejad in how to manage the country's longstanding nuclear row with the West.

Though he had never openly criticised Ahmadinejad, his resignation signaled the emergence of a more moderate conservative faction.

Showdown

Parliamentarians: Ahmadinejad is damaging Iran's legacy of conservatism [REUTERS]
On November 4, the Iranian parliament fired off the opening salvo of its confrontation with Ahmadinejad when it impeached and sacked his interior minister.

Ali Kordan, who was appointed only 90 days prior to his impeachment, was unanimously voted off his post because he had presented a fake degree from Oxford University to obtain parliamentary confirmation.

Legislators called him a disgrace to Iranian conservatism.

The parliament approved Ahmadinejad's next candidate for the post, his close ally Sadeq Mahsouli, in a display of unity with the government but the rift was beginning to shake legislators' confidence that the country was headed in the right direction.

Ahmadinejad is hoping parliament will pass an "economic revolution" plan which he hopes will eliminate most government subsidies and replace them with $40-70 cash payments per person per month.

A reformist newspaper has recently revealed that this plan is in fact a copy of the World Bank recommendation to save Iran's oil income for much needed development plans.

Few options

Though it may sound odd for a government that has constantly criticised World Bank policies, the government may not have much choice.

Oil prices that had sky rocketed to over $140 in July, are now below $50.

Saeed Leylaz, an economic analyst and vocal critic of Ahmadinejad's monetary policies, has said that the government now faces a deficit of $100 million a day.

The government is being forced to cut expenses including the $90 billion annually spent on subsidies.

Other experts believe the "economic revolution plan" will increase inflation at least in the interim; Larijani has said that parliament will stop any plan, bill or measure that fuels inflation.

Confrontation

The rift between conservatives in the parliament and those in the government is expected to widen in the coming year.

Ahmadinejad's critics say his economic revolution plan is merely a populist scheme to buy votes ahead of presidential elections on June 12. He has repeatedly denied the charge, saying this plan would only cost him his popularity.

Ironically, the plunge in oil prices may bring the nuclear issue back to the fore. Deprived of a major part of its income, Iran cannot afford to remain isolated from the rest of the world.

The government may feel forced to return to the negotiating table with world powers.

That, in turn, may cost the government dearly ahead of the election.

Ahmadinejad, who came to power with promises of improving the lives of the poor and maintained his popularity by defying world powers in Iran's nucelar stand-off with the West, faces the risk of losing on both fronts.

His economic revolution plan might be a way out. The impact of the economic plan on Ahmadinejad's popularity remains to be seen, but there is little doubt that his position among his conservative allies has waned since he won office in 2005.
Source: Al Jazeera
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-07-2009, 01:59 PM Thread Starter
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Young Iranians Children of the revolution

Young Iranians

Children of the revolution
Feb 6th 2009
From Economist.com


Iran’s young people have mixed feelings about the country’s 30-year-old revolution


THE old American embassy in Tehran is known as the “nest of spies”. On its walls are lurid murals depicting the Statue of Liberty with a ghastly skull for a face and guns decorated with the stars and stripes. It was here that a group of students held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days from November 1979. The remaking of Iran was in its early months, following the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in February that year. The hostage crisis helped to seal the world’s view of post-revolution Iran as a country of religious fundamentalists.

Iran’s relations with America and the rest of the outside world have improved a little since then but any hopes of a greater thaw under America’s new president, Barack Obama, received an early hit. An American women’s badminton team were denied visas to visit Iran for a tournament starting on Friday February 6th timed to celebrate the revolution. And on the same day the offices of the British Council, a cultural organisation that seeks to build links, particularly between young people from both countries, was forced to close by the Iranian authorities after months of intimidation and harassment.

Iran’s curtailment of outside influences on its numerous students and young people belies their important role in the downfall of the shah 30 years ago. The hostage–taking showed just how far Iranian youth was prepared to go in support of change in the country. But three decades on, the children of the revolution feel differently about the upheaval in Iran.

Iran has a overwhelmingly youthful population. Some 60% of its 70m citizens are now under 30. This group did not experience the revolution directly. Nor did they suffer under the Shah’s rule that preceded it. They did not fight in Iran’s brutal and lengthy war with Iraq. They have grown up exclusively under Iran’s strange blend of theocracy and democracy and they are far from happy with it.

Since 1979 governments have varied in how much they have sought to control the lives of ordinary Iranians. Under the reformist rule of Muhammad Khatami, president between 1997 and 2005, young Iranians experienced the “Tehran spring”, a period of cautious political liberalisation that was accompanied by a slight relaxation of the strict rules governing behaviour. With the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2005, that largely came to an end.

Young people have suffered disproportionately from their government’s economic failures. Iranians are generally extremely well-educated with high literacy rates and a soaring number of students. But once finished with university, many graduates struggle to find a job. With inflation running at around 25% and an estimated 3m unemployed, it is the young who are most affected. The rapid growth in population after the revolution was accompanied by rapid urbanisation: seven in ten Iranians now live in towns and cities. This has made it even harder for young people to find work.

With young people representing such a huge constituency, politicians are naturally anxious to win their support, particularly as presidential elections are due in June. Mr Ahmadinejad has established a $1.3 billion “love fund”, to subsidise marriage for poor Iranians. Without jobs or incomes, it is nigh on impossible to wed. Populist initiatives like this go down well but ultimately do little to address young Iranians’ more pressing concerns.

Many of Iran's youth are disenchanted with the revolution. The “Islamic democracy” offered by Mr Khatami failed to address their desire for a freer society. Mr Ahmadinejad’s conservatism has added to their woes. Young Iranians find a multiplicity of ways to rebel against the regime’s control: with alcohol fuelled parties, painted nails or flirtatious behaviour on the street.

Many outsiders, who dislike the regime and wish to see it fall, hope that Iran’s disaffected youth could bring about its demise. But the anger that many young people share at the failures of their government is unlikely to topple it. Though they may chafe at its restraints, religion remains important to many young Iranians. By and large, they do not wish to see Iran become a secular country and few would describe themselves as atheists. But they would rather see Islam confined to their private lives and eliminated from the public sphere.

More importantly, young Iranians have a strong sense of national pride. They may grumble about the strictures of the Islamic Republic and the failings of Mr Ahmadinejad but there is little sign that they want to dispense with the revolution just yet. Like the founding fathers of the revolution, they resent fiercely any hint of Western meddling in Iranian affairs. They may be unhappy with their leaders and resent their rule, but they will rally round them in the face of outside attack.


Copyright © 2009 The Economist
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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-07-2009, 02:08 PM
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More importantly, young Iranians have a strong sense of national pride. They may grumble about the strictures of the Islamic Republic and the failings of Mr Ahmadinejad but there is little sign that they want to dispense with the revolution just yet. Like the founding fathers of the revolution, they resent fiercely any hint of Western meddling in Iranian affairs. They may be unhappy with their leaders and resent their rule, but they will rally round them in the face of outside attack.

Iraq, anyone?
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-07-2009, 06:03 PM
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there is extremely good chance that ahmadinejacket and his ayatollahs masters will need a little war soon to take care of the economical and other internal problems.
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-08-2009, 01:38 AM Thread Starter
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Not exactly how the poll came about, but last year had a poll of Iranians under the age of 30.
When asked whether Iran should be free to have nuclear power, most said yes.
The same people said if Iran had the atomic bomb, the present leadership might use it!
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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-08-2009, 06:25 AM
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I believe that nukes are weapons of peace and play a major role in deterrence of war. It also means we cannot "control" these countries. Nobody is stupid enough to launch a nuclear weapon knowing that one will hit them back! I believe they should have the nukes. It will definitely balance the powers in that region. Just look at Pakistan and India. Had they BOTH not had nukes, there would have been several wars fought already!
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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-08-2009, 04:01 PM
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Ditto
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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-08-2009, 04:11 PM
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Hell NO, they are not weapons of peace, specially in that region. I have a strong feeling that if Iran had them, they will use them. In addition, should Pakistan's government collapse and some Islamic fundamentalists take over, they too will use them.
In all of my travels to those regions I can say, and without a doubt, that the maturity level among the people in that region is almost zero. The hot tempers, the total lack or respect of women and the almost bipolar mood swings some of those people have over there is simply too scary to have any of them near a nuclear weapon launch control panel.
I am sorry, but as much as I side with some of the Arab causes such as liberty for the Palestinians I must admit that the majority of the Arabs and Muslims need a few hundred years before they are ready to handle dangerous stuff.
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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-08-2009, 04:13 PM
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So, you think Iran might start a nuclear war?
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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 02-08-2009, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Tahloube View Post
So, you think Iran might start a nuclear war?
I am 60% sure and that's scary enough
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