Iran’s terrain is mountainous with magnificent views. One would not think of the countryside as a desert. The desert in the marketplace.
Who can doubt that Iran is a Muslim run country? Recently, a petition has been circulated seeking the release of American Pastor Saeed Abedini. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison for no reason other than being a Christian pastor. There is also a desert in tolerance and openness in Iran – but who doesn’t know about that topography?
On the other hand, the surprise is that the new president Hassan Rouhani’s first push is an attempt to raise the standard of living. Once the propaganda is scrapped off departing president Ahmadinejad’s budget, the world will know how serious Iran’s financial problems are. Former trade minister Yahja Ale Eshaq said last week, “Iran is an economical wreck.” Merchants on Tehran’s main street have been making the same declaration for months.
Rouhani was elected by a significant percent because citizens across the country have felt the pinch for years and have now reached the point of near desperation. A 31 year-old school teacher recently reported no one could find any butter in the stores. In addition, the government was so slow in releasing her pay check, she had problems meeting her creditors demands. Her story can be repeated across Iran.
Importers complain that the Central Bank is not providing the currency needed to buy products abroad. The heart of the issue is that the Central Bank cannot supply the dollars needed for purchases. Iran’s largest customer China has also not been paying for oil purchases with cash but bartering with their own goods and equipment at considerable higher prices than is considered a fair exchange. The result is that the pain won’t go away and Ahmadinejad has never been forthright about these facts.
This situation could become far worse under new sanctions passed this last Wednesday by the United States House of Representatives aimed at forcing Iran’s few remaining oil customers to look to different suppliers. If passed by the Senate next month, Iran’s oil production would be under a virtually embargo. Because oil is their prime export, they would be backed against the wall.
New President Rouhani is hearing desperate voices rail out against the source of all of these problems. Iran’s nuclear program is the problem. Professor Sadegh Zibakalam of Teran University raised the question about why they even have a nuclear program when there is no economic justification for it. The Supreme Leader Khamenei hasn’t changed his tune but Rouhani in his inaugural address recognized that talks with the West were one way out of the crisis. On Saturday at a ceremony marking the beginning of his presidential term, the new president promised to work to lift the “oppressive sanctions” crippling the country.
The world has to hope that Ayatollah Khamenei will not cripple this effort and tht Hassan Rouhani will not continue the double talk that has made conferences on their nuclear program fail.
Let’s hope Iran takes this opportunity to move forward.