By Karl Reiner
Economic sanctions were first imposed on Iran by President Carter in response to the hostage crisis. They are currently imposed by the UN, U.S. and EU to prod Iran into negotiating the nuclear issue. The goal is to make life difficult for the population. It is hoped that the economic squeeze will create enough popular pressure to force the Iranian government to agree to a nuclear deal.
Sanctions have delayed Israeli military action. At the UN, they have helped maintain unity between the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The combination of Iranian mismanagement and sanctions are slowing the Iranian economy. In 2011, Iran produced 3.6 million barrels of oil per day. Oil provides the government over 50% of its income. Its output has been depressed by 25%. Iran's GDP has slipped by 8%, inflation has climbed to 10%, and unemployment stands at 20%.
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said the country has to develop an economy of resistance and lower its dependency on oil exports. Iran was badly battered during the Iran-Iraq War. As a consequence, the population supports national defense. Iran wants the West to accept its right to enrich uranium, claiming it is for peaceful purposes. Given Iran's rabid statements on war and the destruction of Israel, the West will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon.
Many hardliners in Tehran believe giving in on the nuclear issue is a bigger threat to the regime than a military clash with Israel or the U.S. Stung by tightening sanctions, Iran is retaliating against Western and Israeli interests around the world. Iran was implicated in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington. It has launched cyber attacks against U.S. banks and an oil company. Iran's feared security forces have gained more leeway in countering enemies at home and abroad.
In his Iranian New Year's speech on March 21, Ayatollah Khamenei said the president elected in June should be a peace maker and economic manager. The incoming president has to be someone who has not created problems in the sphere of Iran-U.S. relations. Khamenei acknowledged that internal political struggles and mismanagement are causing part of the country's economic problem. He admitted it was not all due to sanctions.
The campaign for the presidency of Iran by Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, a planning and public policy professor at Rutgers, was covered in a previous post. Dr. Amirahmadi is in Iran April 8-17 for meetings with friends, family and supporters. On the evening of April 18, he has scheduled a campaign event at Columbia University.
Dr. Amirahmadi is in a risky environment. THe competition for power among Iran's political groups has stymied progress on the nuclear issue. Iranians think 50% of the bad economic situation is due to sanctions; about 50% of the problem is due to government mismanagement. The views of Dr. Amirahmadi may be gaining support.
Although Dr. Amirahmadi's candidacy has yet to be approved by Iran's Guardian Council, his credentials are a good fit with the Supreme Leader's criteria. His visit may dampen some of the fear and suspicion embedded in Iran's fanatical revolutionary circles. Nuclear talks between the West and Iran have stalled in Kazakhstan. Given the political climate in Iran, continued discussions may not be possible until after the June election.