of US $
is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)
Books on Iran
Update No: 083 - (24/10/08)
At least somebody is happy (for now)
Like other oil and gas producers, Iran has been largely shelved from the
financial crisis which invested most of the world and particularly the west.
Indeed the stock exchange has been recovering and is up 20% over a year ago,
helped by the privatisation program of the government. Iranian President
Ahmadinejad did not hide his satisfaction in his public statements and various
Ayatollahs exploited the opportunity to remind their constituencies how superior
a system Islam is. Even former President Khatami, a reformist, indulged in the
exercise. His rare public statement could be interpreted as an indication that
he is being tempted by the invitation of some reformists to rejoin the political
battle and advance his candidature in next yearsí elections - he might be
trying to pre-empt the vetoing of his candidacy. Khatami was far from popular at
the end of his two terms in government, but his image seems to have recovered as
many in the country believe that the country needs a saviour and somebody who
can bridge the gap with the west. Khatami could be the necessary counterpart to
an Obama presidency in the states. Not all reformists and moderates support him,
not least because quite a few did not like his moderate attitude towards the
Ahmadinejad, however, has little to cheer. Poverty has been on the rise since
2005 and now 14 million Iranians are officially acknowledged to be living below
the poverty line. Inflation continues to rise and in September it reached 29.4%
on an annual basis. According to a study commissioned by the Iranian parliament,
90% of Teheranís inhabitants consider inflation the most serious problem of
the country. 32% of respondents blamed foreign pressure for the economic
difficulties, but about as many did not. With oil prices falling, moreover, the
time of Ahmadinejadís profligacy is surely coming to an end. The property
market is already suffering from a lack of buyers and prices are likely to
collapse soon. Ahmadinejad might be forced to curtail its ambitious spending
plans even before next Juneís elections.
Iranís oil and gas policies continue to evolve. Teheran appears to have
decided to drop its LNG plans, opting instead to expand its pipeline network.
Existing LNG contrasts will be implemented, but outstanding bids will be turned
into pipeline projects. It is believed that the move is dictated by the impact
of sanctions, which have limited Teheranís access to LNG technology.
Ahmadinejadís growing influence in policy-making at the Oil Ministry was
reflected in October in the resignation of Deputy Oil minister Nematzadeh, an
appointee of Ahmadinejadís predecessor.
The government is also multiplying its efforts to market Iran as a transit route
for oil and gas supplies from Central Asia. Pakistanís and particularly
Indiaís hunger for natural gas from Turkmenistan (which has just proven
massive new gas deposits), may be assuaged by a pipeline through Iran, as an
alternative to a long mooted pipeline through unstable Afghanistan and tribal
Facelift for the new White House occupier
Teheran might be preparing itself for the post-Bush period. It has received
various assurances by friendly countries that more sanctions are unlikely:
Russian company Gazprom even proposed the formation of a joint Russian-Iranian
gas company recently, while the Chinese are blocking talks about further
sanctions against Iran in retaliation to sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan.
The talks had previously been blocked by Russiaís anger about Western
criticism of its brief Georgian war. Despite this diplomatic protection,
American sources confirm that Iranian assistance to Iraqi and Afghan insurgents
is declining. This presumably is meant to create a political and diplomatic
environment which would facilitate an Obama Presidentís offer of negotiations
to Teheran. Teheran does not want any form of permanent US presence in Iraq, but
its opposition to the Iraqi-US pact is being expressed in non-violent ways:.
Another step which might have been taken in order to improve Iranís image is
the announcement that under-18ís will no longer be subjected to the capital
sentence. The recently announced cut of military conscription terms by 1-2
months seems instead to be rather aimed at appeasing internal constituencies.