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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: 105 - (26/08/10)

Is Ahmadinejad preparing a complete clean-up?
Conservative opposition to Ahmadinejad seems to be stiffening; a ‘troika’ formed by Parliamentary speaker Ali Larjani, Ahmad Tavakoli a leading figure in the parliament, and Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the Revolutionary Guards is reportedly lobbying Supreme leader Khamenei to drive a wedge between him and President Ahmadinejad. The conservatives judge Ahmadinejad’s policies as adventurist and divisive. Some rumours even suggest that the ‘troika’ might be planning to have Ahmadinejad impeached, although this seems far-fetched. The real goal has probably something more to do with convincing Khamenei of the need to have a more pragmatic and moderate figure succeeding Ahmadinejad in three years’ time: for this purpose Ahmadinejad’s hold on power would have to be loosened now. The fear of the conservatives is that Ahmadinejad will exploit the situation created by the repression of the reformist movement to neutralise any kind of opposition. Already he is moving against the most moderate conservatives, like Rafsanjani, whose private university is now being taken under government control. Who will be next? Some Iranian politicians are worried that external pressure on the Islamic Republic might actually be favouring Ahmadinejad and his consolidation in power; the nationalist sentiment aroused by the sanctions plays against the opposition. Ahmadinejad in this has been skilful: his settlement proposals might seem flawed to western commentators, but not necessarily so to the less sophisticated strata of the Iranian public.

Economic counter-sanctions
Whatever one thinks of Ahmadinejad’s regime, it cannot be accused of not being proactive in his ways. The Iranians have just launched an ambitious project to expand land communications with central Asia, in order to facilitate trade with those countries and to pre-empt its exclusion from European plans to re-launch the Silk Road and enhance communications throughout the region. Iran’s highways have already been improved to a large extent in the northern part of the country, in the expectation of a forthcoming greater volume of traffic. Ahmadinejad is also pushing a major project to relocate government workers away from Tehran towards the provinces, in an effort to ease the congestion of the capital, a city of 14 million.

Teheran seems to have fair chances of finalising a deal with Syria over the delivery of natural gas through a pipeline crossing Iraqi territory; there is also a project to export gas to Europe through Syria later. In recent times Iran has stepped up plans to build pipelines to export its gas, in contrast to earlier plans to rely on liquefied gas to be shipped around the world. LNG project are being dropped one after the other as Iran does not have the technology and is dependent on foreign collaboration; with the sanctions becoming tighter and tighter, this is no longer a realistic option. The South Pars project involving Total has just been scrapped because the French firm has withdrawn from it. The only surviving LNG project uses German technology and has not been abandoned yet, because significant investment has already gone into it; its future is not clear however.

Feeling the pinch
But counter-sanctions are not enough. Teheran’s recent statement that it is ready to sell oil and receive payments in any currency other than dollars and euros has been presented as an insult to the countries which are sanctioning Iran, but is more likely to be a result of growing difficulties in placing Iranian oil on the market. China is definitely buying much less oil from Iran: 9 million barrels in June as opposed to over 22 million barrels in June last year. The Chinese have increased imports from Iraq and Saudi Arabia instead, although it is not clear whether the move is motivated by the sanctions or simply by the offer of better prices. On the positive side the rate of inflation continues to fall. In July it was down to 9.1%, from 9.4% in June. In any case Teheran shows no intention of giving up its game of brinkmanship: new missiles get tested all the time, while the nuclear reactor of Bushehr went live at the end of August.

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