Iran’s Future – Update

Next month will augur national elections in Iran. Already there is a lot of jockeying for position as people sign up to be candidates. This is all great theatre but the winner is already chosen (and in the process of carefully coming out of mothballs). Rafsanjani may be 70 years old but he is as powerful and as wily as ever. I don’t doubt that he is relishing taking over the presiden’t position once again after seeing many enemies come and go. He is, after all, the most successful cleptocrat within Iran. His family owns and controls some of the largest bonyads and through them much of Iran’s industrial and commercial assets.These elections will be very different from the previous ones that brought Khatami to power. The thin veneer of hope has long worn off from the reformer’s campaign as they have been shown to only have vague intentions but no power with which to implement them. The Iranian youth (which happen to make up 75% of the population of Iran) have changed tactics. Through the bitter lessons of the past 8 years they have accurately identified the game and do not wish to participate in a political system that is rigged. Their tactic this time is apathy. And it is a surprisingly effective weapon because it goes to the heart of the illegitimacy of a non democratic government. The Mullah’s know this and will be out in full force intimidating people to vote.

But as I said in my last comment on Iran’s future, these are all cosmetic and superficial changes. Nothing meaningful will change in Iran as long as the price of oil is this high (and anywhere down to the thirties range). It allows the Mullah’s to maintain a teetering social, economic and political structure by filling in the cracks with cold hard petrodollars. Until this tool is taken away from them nothing will change. Sure, people may come and go – as with the presidents, or even with Khamenei’s death in a few years – but the system will be able to maintain itself.

There are some conspiracy theories going around that the price of oil is this high because the US wants it to be this high in order to fence in China’s growth. I’m not really sure what to believe these days but I do know that the USSR’s collapse did come about sooner rather than later due to low oil prices. The US government did have a hand in that. Also, the fact that the US government is backing up the truck to buy oil on the open market for the Strategic Oil Reserve does raise some eyebrows. Of course, it doesn’t help that opportunistic hedge funds have piggy backed onto a sure trade and rode the commodity to dizzying heights. I’m not sure if there is any truth to these stories. But I have to confess that if true, it is the quintissential American style – doing something to solve a problem in one place which causes a new problem elsewhere.

There is a great article on Iran in the current US edition of GQ magazine (May 2005). It also includes an interview with the outgoing president. Don’t miss it. The main thrust of the article is that there are steps being taken behind the scenes that mimic the process that the Bush administration went through before its adventures in Iraq. The most public maneuver is the “Iran Freedom and Support Act” (H.R. 282/S.333). Iran’s insistence to gaining nuclear capabilities is not endearing it to the Bush camp and its adamant position that it is for peaceful purposes (energy production) is hollow considering the abundance of oil and natural gas in Iran. I think that eventually Iran will join the nuclear club. After all, short of invading them right now, there really is nothing that the US or the rest of the world can do about it. I think the chances of the US taking military action are extremely slim because the US is already stretched too thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers just aren’t there. Iran is after all, more than twice the size of Iraq.

The House of Justice seems really anxious to maintain a strong Baha’i presence in Iran – almost as if it is anticipating an imminent regime change. I don’t agree with this position. For one thing, as I’ve argued before a change may not be in the cards (atleast not in the next 10 years or more), but even if it is, I don’t think it justifies keeping the Iranian youth in such a poisonous environment. Of what use would be a community that is beset by the same social ills that are affecting the rest of Iranian society? Why not just let them get out and live their lives in a normal healthy society and then go back when things change?

  • Anonymous

    I find it interesting that you talk about Iranian youth being in a poisonous environment only a few blog entries after you vehemently defend the right of Baha’is to read Covenant-Breaker material.

  • Anonymous

    I find it interesting that you talk about Iranian youth being in a poisonous environment only a few blog entries after you vehemently defend the right of Baha’is to read Covenant-Breaker material.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    It wasn’t me defending the right of Baha’is to read CB material. It was the UHJ – I simply quoted them in order to bringing this little known fact to light. If you have a problem with the UHJ’s stance on this, then write to them.

    Also, regarding the poisonous environment in Iran…I may have understated things. Things are abysmal on the ground. There is rampant depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity, unemployment, poverty, etc. The Baha’i youth are part of this society whether they like it or not. I disagree that they should be shackled and not permitted to leave for healthier climes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1082818 Baquia

    It wasn’t me defending the right of Baha’is to read CB material. It was the UHJ – I simply quoted them in order to bringing this little known fact to light. If you have a problem with the UHJ’s stance on this, then write to them.

    Also, regarding the poisonous environment in Iran…I may have understated things. Things are abysmal on the ground. There is rampant depression, drug abuse, alcoholism, promiscuity, unemployment, poverty, etc. The Baha’i youth are part of this society whether they like it or not. I disagree that they should be shackled and not permitted to leave for healthier climes.

  • Anonymous
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