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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: 114 - (26/05/11)

If Syria goes
After having initially welcomed the Arab spring as a result of seeing unfriendly Arab regimes being toppled one after the other, Teheran now sees developments in Syria with worry. The Syrian regime long praised by Teheran for its firmness, seems to struggle with maintaining order in the country; Assadís hesitation and initial flirting with the idea of reform must also not have pleased the Iranians. Teheran fears that even if the Syrian regime was to survive, it would have to rebalance its foreign policy in order to please its Sunni majority and therefore curtail relations with Teheran. Also the initial feeling that the Iranian regime had all to gain from the change of regime in several Arab countries appears no longer so certain; Iranís relations with Hamas, long the mainstay of its Arab foreign policy, are in doubt now because Hamas fears losing Syrian support and is warming up to the new Egyptian regime; Iran might not even be able to connect to Hamas anymore, if Syria goes, or for that matter to Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Infighting still preferred occupation
The evolving international situation does not seem to worry Presidient Ahmadinejad too much, however, or at least is not distracting him from domestic infighting. After the clash with Supreme Leader Ahmadinejad last month over the sacking of Intelligence Minister Moslehi, Ahmadinejad even refused to attend cabinet meetings for two weeks and refused to acknowledge the reinstatement of Moslehi. Ahmadinejadís ally Mashaei, is now being targeted by the Supreme leader and is being accused of sedition; some of his supporters, who propose a line of Iranian nationalism and relative anticlericalism within the Iranian regime, have recently been arrested under the accusation of exorcism; among other things Mashaei says that the return of the hidden Imam is imminent, a messianic point of view that the clergy reject. Mahsaei is believe to harbour presidential ambitions and might be trying to manoeuvre to attract support from the reformist opposition; his anti-clerical message might have some appeal in the absence of a genuine reformist candidate. This month the row continued when Ahmadinejad sacked three senior ministers, believed to be opposed to Mashaei: oil, welfare and industries and mines. A day earlier Ahmadinejad seemed to have accepted mediation over the issue of merging eight ministries, including the ones of the three sacked ministers. Then he struck with the sackings. He also appointed himself caretaker Oil Minister, which might take him to preside over the next OPEC summit. On the whole, the rising confrontation with Khamenei seems to be taking the profile of a serious political crisis.

The art of manipulation
The Iranian government tries to project an image of self-confidence and optimism by continuing to announce the discovery of new oil fields all the time. The most recent announcements in May concerned the discovery of five fields, for a total value of 5 trillion cubic feet of gas and 500 million barrels of oil. However, no detail whatsoever over the new discoveries was distributed, reinforcing the feeling that there might be some manipulation involved. What the government is less keen to discuss is the mess that the replacement of the subsidies system with a welfare system is turning into; or the state of the banking system. The Iranian banking system struggles with under-capitalisation and is afflicted by a mountain of bad loans, estimated at 20% of their capital. From this point of view there is little difference between state and private banks, which in any case have been taken over by the foundations linked to the regime. The exception is represented by a few new private banks, which have emerged recently.

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