Thursday, February 7, 2008

Iran's Weakness

According to the World Factbook, only 51% of Iran's citizens are actually Iranian. Azeris,a Turkic ethnic group, speak their own language and comprise 24% of the population. Gilakis and Mazandaranis comprise 8% fof the population. Kurds are 7%. Arabs are 3%. Lurs, Baluchis and Turkmen each weigh in at 2%. Other groups comprise 1%.
Although Iran has invested in oil, the areas in which it is located are mostly non-Iranian. Additionally, the roads, hospitals and schools in these oil rich areas are very underdeveloped. Arabs and others in Iran are known to be very unhappy that Iran has invested in hundreds of millions of dollars to fight Israel yet has critical gaps in its development of basic infrastructure. There were open protests against what was seen as the misplaced priorities of Iran's leadership.
Iran's investment in nuclear technology is another case of misplaced priorities. Despite being a world leader in oil production, Iran has no refineries with which to produce gasoline. It must drain its foriegn currency reserves regularly by importing gasoline. Those lucky enough to not be among the 20% who are unemployed must pay $3. 00 a gallon to buy rationed gasoline. To a worker earning $15.00 a day, this is a monumental expense. The decision this past summer to ration gasoline sparked widespread unrest and continues to be a source of public discontent.
Ahmadinejad's government has antagonised the labour movement by putting its leaders in jail and promoting an interpretation of Islamic law that is very detrimental to worker's rights.
Additionally, Ahmadinejad has cracked down not only on alcohol consumption but on popular music, even Iranian pop music ,which maintains a threshold of modesty that is endangered in the west.
The Iranian government has squandered its resources, and antagonised its minorities, who together are almost a majority of Iran's population. It has picked all of the wrong battles, and drained its foriegn currency in the process. It would be hard for America to do worse damage to Iran than their own leadership has done.
How to take advantage of the Iranian government's weakness without further hurting their long suffering people(s) is a pressing question that begs serious discussion.

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