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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)

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Update No: 111 - (26/02/11)

Egyptian wave reaches Iran
The success of popular demonstrations in Tunis and Egypt has injected a new lease of life in the Iranian Green Movement, which had completely petered out several months ago. Hundreds of thousands have hit the streets again, forcing the regime to clamp down on external media, targeting satellite dishes and the internet, as well as to issue threats of violence and even of executing the leaders of the movement. This reaction suggests that the Islamic Republic is not entirely confident that the Egyptian contagion will not hit Iran as decisively as it has been hitting the Arab world. It is hard to believe, however, that the regime will be betrayed by its own armed forces, which are more ideological than the Egyptian or Tunisian ones, particularly the Revolutionary Guards, and have a lot to lose from a change of regime. There are some rumours that some high rank officials of the Guards are increasingly critical of the regime, but this is impossible to confirm for now. Some observers believe that the regime has been shocked by the size of the demonstrations, at a time when it seemed that the opposition had been definitely defeated. Some also believe that the Iranian working class, hit hard by the recent cut in subsidies, might join the Green Movement this time, adding a whole new thrust to it. Ahmadinejad had presented himself as the paladin of Iran’s lower classes in his early years, but the subsidy cuts respond more to a logic of economic nationalism.

Conservatives keep squabbling
For the moment being the renewal of the Green Movement has not reunified the different conservative factions. At the beginning of February the parliament voted to impeach Transport Minister Hamid Behbahani, following yet another air crash. President Ahmadinejad is resisting the move, has accused the parliament of political interference and has reappointed Behbahani as caretaker. Just a few days earlier the same parliament had approved Ali Akbar Salehi as foreign minister, replacing his predecessor who had been sacked by the President without warning last year; Salehi is seen as a close ally of Ahmadinejad and his approval had seemed to signal better relations with the parliament: clearly a premature conclusion. The parliament feels that Ahmadinejad does not respect its prerogatives and wants to play a bigger role, despite Supreme Leader Khamenei’s warnings that executive and legislative branches of the state have to cooperate; perhaps more importantly Parliamentary Speaker Larijani, who has been harbouring presidential ambitions for some time, is keen to discredit Ahmadinejad as much as possible. There have been also reports that US intelligence sources have identified divisions within the Iranian leadership, between those who fear sanctions could weaken popular support for the regime and stimulate popular protest.

Sanctions welcome
Meanwhile, Western powers are discussing additional sanctions to be developed outside the UN framework, where Russian and Chinese opposition would make it difficult to achieve an intensification of the sanctions. The talk is of more financial sanctions and also sanctions affecting the oil and gas sectors. Incidentally the latest economic data shows that in January inflation continued to rise, reaching an annual rate of 10.8%, compared to 10.1% for the year to December; this was largely expected because of the massive subsidy cuts. For the time being the net around Iran is not tight enough to prevent Teheran from scoring a few goals. Most recently an agreement was signed with Armenia to build a pipeline and supply oil to the trans-caucasian country. Ahmadinejad reacts to the internal trouble by re-launching his strategy of provoking international condemnation and using that to mobilise Iranian national sentiments behind himself. Most recently it was announced that he was to have sent a couple of warships through Suez into the Mediterranean, superficially to visit Syria. Obviously it attracted Israeli protests. Interestingly the application to use the Suez canal was withdrawn, and it is not known to what extent the turbulence in Egypt was a factor in this.

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