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IRAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
1.648 million

Population

66,128,965

Capital
Teheran

Currency
Iranian rials

President
Mohammad Khatami-Ardakani





Update No: 060 - (28/11/06)

Iran might soon miss Bish
The prospects of a US success vis--vis Iran never looked so weak after President Bush lost control of both houses of congress in the November elections. The credibility of the Bush Administration's gung-ho approach is nearing its nadir and Bush himself is now forced to make concessions to the Russians, in a last ditch attempt to win a UN endorsement of his request for sanctions against Iran. In mid-November Bush proposed to exclude the oil and gas sector from sanctions against Iran, a move which would greatly weaken the impact of the sanctions. It was indeed expected that eventually any sanctions would not affect the hydrocarbon sector, but not that this would become the American negotiating position. While initially the Russians and the Chinese might have been genuinely worried about some American trick, which would impose sanctions but leave the door open to a UN-legitimised military campaign, their enduring hostility to any sanctions against Iran appears now rather determined by the prospect of the possibility of a complete defeat of the US. 
The Iranian leadership also seems to share the same feelings that American efforts in the region are doomed and raised its flag even higher in November, when it responded to accusations of supporting terrorist organisations by announcing an increase of its support to Hamas in Palestine from US$50 million to US$120 million. Clearly there is little sign that Teheran is being intimidated. Quite the contrary, in Iran analysts and observers are now becoming worried of an excessively fast decline of American presence in the region, in particular concerning Iraq. Teheran's strategy of letting the American do the dirty job of crushing the Sunni insurgency is beginning to appear outdated as Washington is forced to seek a way out and chaos is spreading throughout Iraq, including parts of the south. If the US indeed leaves, Teheran would inherit the mess.

The internal threat
A more serious threat (than President Bush's thwarted hegemonic ambitions) is for Iran the populist tendencies of President Ahmadinejad. His recent attack on Iran's main private bank, Parsian, drove the bank's shares down to one eighth of their previous value. He accuses private banks of profiteering rather then investing in the productive economy and therefore of contributing to widen the gap between rich and poor. Ahmadinejad and others within the establishment might now be thinking that the bank has been growing too big and influential and might therefore represent a threat to their monopoly of power. Earlier this year the government pushed banks to lower their interest rates, in line with Ahmadinejad's view that banks should not lend to the rich, but to the poor, so that these can lift themselves out of poverty. Ahmadinejad also opposes interest rates on Islamic grounds and most banks now offer interest-free accounts, as well as small interest-free loans in order to please the government. But Ahmadinejad wants to go further. The President is now trying to sack the chief executive officer of the Parsian bank, Abdollah Talebi, for having privileged big borrowers over small ones, but the case is being reviewed by the judiciary. If the judged reversed Ahmadinejad's decision, it would be a significant blow to his administration.
Ahmadinejad's previous decision to redistribute much of the power of the planning agency to provincial governors is also causing a lot of turmoil, including a wave of resignations, starting from that of the chief of the agency. The resigning officials fear that the autonomy of the agency will be compromised under the new system, to the advantage of Ahmadinejad (who appoints the governors). In line with his populist ideas, the president seems to have the intention of re-directing economic planning to benefit the poorer strata of the population.

Gas back on the agenda
In November came the news that Iran and Austria are negotiating a deal for the delivery of gas. This would be a further confirmation that the original plans of Ahmadinejad's circle, to limit exports of gas and utilise it for internal consumption, might have been shelved already. According to Iranian commentators, Austria would only be the first European country (apart from Turkey) to be become a client for Iran's gas. At the same time even negotiations with India for the building of a gas pipeline seem to be approaching the final phase, after Iran responded with a new price offer to India's complaints that Iranian price demands were too high.

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