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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 136,833 107,522 114,100 34
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,000 1,710 1,680 110
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Iran

Update No: 078 - (01/06/08)

Final parliamentary results
The second round of Iran’s parliamentary elections, which took place at the end of April, confirmed the trend seen in the first round. The remaining 82 seats (out of 290) have now been assigned. Conservatives of various strands now have 69% of all seats, reformists 16% and independents the rest. For the reformists there has been a modest increase in the number of seats (7) from a very bad performance in the previous elections, when they had gone to the polls divided, but they can rightly claim to have been prevented from running being blocked in most constituencies. Of the 170 MPs elected on the two conservative lists (30 more have been elected as independents), 117 belong to the pro-Ahmadinejad Unified Principalist Front and 53 to the Broad Principalist Coalition, opposed to the President. The position of non-aligned conservatives and of other independent MPs might determine how strong Ahmadinejad’s control of the parliament will be in the future; however it is difficult to argue that his position is weaker than before.

Critics of Ahmadnejad become more assertive
Nonetheless criticism of Ahmadinejad keeps mounting. Former president Rafsanjani attacked head down in May, focusing on the President’s management of the economy. Although Rafsanjani is believed not to intend to stand again in a presidential race, he might be trying to mobilise opposition to Ahmadinejad within the parliament and weaken him, with an eye to the 2009 presidential elections. Rafsanjani might be working on behalf of other future moderate-conservative candidates. Ahmadinejad’s own Economy Minister openly attacked him in his resignation speech on 22 April, blaming his interference on the management of the economy as a main source of turmoil. Central Bank Governor Tahmasb Mazaheri is also known to be very critical of the President’s policies. The latest official figures put inflation at 18.5%, confirming a trend towards higher rates which has been consistent since Ahmadinejad took power. Some unofficial estimates place inflation as high as 30%.

Ahmadinejad’s policies are not just about populism, however. One of his strongest programs is a massive investment in the petrochemical industry. Apart from US$13.3 billion to be invested by the state oil company during the current five year plan, joint ventures worth another US$4.5 billion have been signed with Venezuelan, Indonesian, Indian and Omani firms for implementation in the period up to 2010. Iran’s dependence on petrochemical imports might be over soon, therefore.

Washington’s frustration
Although Teheran has so far been relatively successful in containing the nuclear crisis through skilful diplomacy, frustration is now threatening to spill over on the Atlantic side. Washington cannot wait for the sanctions to force Iran to surrender its program, if for no other reason that the damage inflicted is limited, and in part offset by the readiness of new partners, particularly the Chinese, to step in and replace the Europeans. Rumours are resurfacing that President Bush wants military action, no doubt stoked up by vice- president Cheney, although Gates and Rice are reportedly putting a brake on his ambitions. The five permanent members of the Security Council issued a joint communiqué in May, expressing their concern over the Iranian nuclear program. This is the first time that a joint statement is issued, but from Washington’s perspective this is still too little too late. Iran does not seem to have any intention to accept the economic incentives offered by the Permanent Five and Germany, as it considers the military option not a realistic threat and is probably observing carefully how US presidential hopefuls position themselves with regard to Iran. Barack Obama appears the more conciliatory of the candidates and claims that he will want to meet Ahmadinejad if elected. From Teheran’s perspective it must not look implausible that sanctions will peter out gradually after the American presidential elections. 

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