Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 11, 2009

The Iranian Election - An Economic View

In the next Iranian election in June former president Khatami will likely run as a candidate against the current president Ahmadinejad. The 'western' view on the differences between these two men is clouded as it is looking solely at Iran's nuclear project or its rhetoric against U.S. imperialism and Israeli zionism.

The Iranian president is simply not the one deciding about those issues. That is the prerogative of the supreme leader Khamenei and the power structures around him. (For a deeper description of the power structure and his personality this portrait - Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran's Most Powerful Leader (pdf) may be helpful.)

But the Iranian president can direct interior and economic policies in Iran. So unless distracted by some 'shiny object' conflict the voters will naturally look at those policies to decide whom to give their votes.

I asked Moon of Alabama commentator Parviz, who is an Iranian and lives in Iran, to explain the differences between Khatami and Ahmadinejad in economic policies. Here is his response.

The Iranian Election

by Parviz

If ex-President Khatemi decides to run (which is highly probable now that his pragmatist rival Moussavi has withdrawn) he will almost certainly win the election on June 12th with about 65% of the popular vote, which is less than his astonishing 80% vote in both 1997 and 2001 but nonetheless sufficient to prevent the need for a run-off a week later.

The above prognosis assumes that the U.S. and Israel will keep very, very quiet and not take any dramatic measures to affect the outcome: Ironically, if the U.S. were to make substantial concessions to Iran during the next few months it would merely legitimize Ahmadinejad’s hardline policies of the past 4 years, while if the U.S. were to exhibit increased hostility it would scare the regime into putting its full weight behind Ahmadinejad and possibly even ‘fixing’ the election results in his favor. So any interference of any kind by the U.S., whether positive or negative, will torpedo Khatemi’s election efforts.

Khatemi’s renewed popularity is partly by default, meaning that most of the population is fed up with Ahmadinejad; and partly by design, meaning that Iranians have now come to appreciate the solid economic, social and diplomatic gains achieved during Khatemi’s 8-year presidency.  When Khatemi was elected in 1997 Iran had near-zero growth, a massive short-term debt of $30 billion and only $10 billion annual oil revenues. Non-oil export revenues were a mere $1 billion. 8 years later GDP growth had risen to above 6%, Iran had become a net international creditor to the tune of $30 billion and had repaid its entire foreign debt. True, oil had risen from below $10/bbl in 1998 to around $30/bbl when Ahmadinejad was (s)elected in 2005, but the real reasons behind Khatemi’s success were the solid economic reforms he introduced, whose main features were:

  1. Slashing of the top income tax and corporate tax rates from 55% to 35%.
  2. Ratification in 2002 of the first Foreign Investment Law in Iran’s history, guaranteeing foreign corporations the right to own up to 100% of domestic companies and to repatriate not just the principal investment but all profits, including property appreciation, copyright, goodwill and other value added assets. This boosted foreign direct investment (FDI) from a 20-year annual average of $25 million to a whopping $2 billion in 2003 alone.
  3. Establishment of the Oil Stabilization Fund which in 2005 had reached $40 billion, to provide a cushion against falling oil prices. The Fund was plundered by the Ahmadinejad administration to pay current budget expenses despite massive windfall forex revenues of $100 billion in 2008 and is now close to zero.
  4. Establishment of the first private banks in Iran’s post-Revolutionary history, which within their first 2 years of operation constituted 6% of total banking turnover and which, equally significantly, placed pressure on the state banks to modernize and reform.
  5. Massive investment in the non-oil sector, thereby increasing non-oil forex revenues from petrochemicals, agriculture, manufacturing and the service industry (including income from overseas engineering contracts) from just $1 billion in 1998 to $15 billion in 2005.
  6. Issued the first ever sovereign bond (EUR 500m) in 2002, yielding 8.5%, which was so successfully received that it issued a 2nd bond of EUR 450m just a few months later at a substantially lower yield.

The results of the above economic reforms was that the Iranian Rial strengthened 25% against the U.S. Dollar from 1997 – 2005, inflation was kept at a manageable 13%, Iran’s OECD Investment Risk rating was upgraded from 5 to 4 (with Fitch upgrading to B+) and the Silent Confirmation fee on Letters of Credit dropped from 8% to just 1.5% p.a., dramatically lowering Iran’s import costs (The a/m fee is now 14% p.a., which is what foreign banks charge to ‘guarantee’ payment of Iranian L/Cs to their domestic exporters).

The above summarizes merely Khatemi’s economic reforms. Barflies know what Khatemi achieved politically and culturally from the many posts on this subject, all of which have since been reversed by Ahmadinejad. Even the incumbent’s popularity in the provinces, generated by flooding rural areas with cash and hand-outs, has been tempered by the realization that inflation has risen from 15% to 50%, unemployment has doubled to 25% and corruption has reached unprecedented levels. Drug addiction and prostitution are among the highest levels anywhere on the globe, yet another indictment of the ‘Islamic’ Republic.

Khatemi is now very much appreciated in retrospect, which is why many Iranians disappointed that Khatemi did not change the Islamic system completely now realize that his achievements in the highly restrictive circumstances have been underestimated, and that hostility and pressure by the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11 (for which Iran was blameless) limited his ability to achieve even more.

Undoubtedly the Islamic Republic is a 7th century anachronism that hinders Iran’s economic, social and political progress, but if the choice is between Ahmadinejad and Khatemi the populace will choose the lesser of two evils.

Posted by b on February 11, 2009 at 13:05 UTC | Permalink

next page »

Thanx, Parviz

In terms of foreign policy, is there a fundamental disagreement between Khatami and Ahmedinejad? Is Khatami more inclined to seriously "compromise" on enrichment, aid to Hizbullaha/Hamas (be it financial or rhetorical) recognize Israel etc? Even if Khamenei would stop him, is Khatami inclined to do those things?

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 11 2009 13:42 utc | 1

Interesting read Parviz. Your conclusion, that any interference, whether positive or negative, would reduce Khatami’s election chances, sounds convincing. As you say, Ahmadinejad and his supporters, quashing social and cultural freedoms, dug their own grave. Being elected on promises of continued economic improvements and delivering a galloping inflation instead, is not a recipe for electoral success. Having managed to launch a satellite during his tenure, as impressive as it is, will hopefully not deliver Ahmadinejad the popular admiration for him to be re-elected and continue his socially repressive policies.

I imagine the right wing smear campaign against Khatami has already started. Where does the IRGC stand in all this?

Posted by: Juan Moment | Feb 11 2009 13:59 utc | 2

Lysander, as b correctly intimated, the Prez has tremendous influence over economic policy and selection of competent people to the right posts. Khatemi strengthened the role of the 'mandarins' and ensured that the ministries had a solid foundation of deputy ministers and directors who would hold things together even if the Ministers themselves were replaced.

What Ahmadinejad did was to install people at all levels of the economy, based purely on their religious fundamentalism, creating chaos and corruption, and resulting in the highest number of ministers being impeached or fired in Iranian history.

So much for the President's influence on the economy. Politically, if the President is wise and can demonstrate success he can influence the Spiritual Leader's foreign relations strategy. This was one of Khatemi's major achievements that was torpedoed by the Neocons-Zionists in the Bush Administration who feared an increasingly powerful Iran and decided to hold Iran solely accountable for global Islamic terrorism (Conversely, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were rewarded by the U.S. for respectively having planned, financed and executed 9/11).

IF the U.S. stays neutral for the next few months, and IF Khatemi is elected, I forecast a rapid rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran that will indeed be encouraged by Khamenei. Success breeds success, and a Grand Bargain (which Khamenei proposed in 2003) is something that will be hailed by virtually all factions in Iran, and those who dislike it won't be able to negatively affect the outcome.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 14:23 utc | 3

Juan Moment, don't misunderstand the IRGC. The Rev. Guards were the ones who persuaded Khomeini in 1988 to "drink the cup of poison" and accept a cease-fire with Saddam Hussein. The Rev. Guards voted 70 % for Khatemi in 1997 and even more in 2001, only slightly less than the voting pattern for the population as a whole. Therefore the Guards are realists and would love to avoid getting their heads blown off if there is no longer an external military threat to the nation.

The Guards are also economic pragmatists who would like to retain the gains achieved under Ahmadinejad (who transferred large portions of the state economy to their control). So a Grand Bargain would suit them just fine and enable them to sign major deals with foreign corporations and become even richer. They are not looking for a war with either the U.S. or Israel, if it can be avoided, and all the sabre-rattling and arms build-up have occurred out of genuine concern for self-preservation and the nation's security, not out of a desire to attack pre-emptively (which is the U.S.A.'s and Israel's preferred military strategy).

In summary, the Guards will be on board if a rapprochement from the U.S. side is perceived as genuine.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 14:33 utc | 4

Fascinating to hear from an insider. Thank you both for the post.

Posted by: Alister | Feb 11 2009 15:03 utc | 5

Sorry to keep pestering you, Parviz.

What do you think Iran would offer in a grand bargain and what would they demand in return? My honest sense is that in the end the U.S. will be far too stingy in its offers that even the most moderate in Iran may be turned off. But in your view, what is the most reasonable outline of a deal?

Thanx again, and we are very fortunate to have a perspective from first hand knowledge.

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 11 2009 15:47 utc | 6

Parviz view , I think is simply twisted and wrong perspective.

1-Musavi (Khamenei 1/2 bro is not yet finalized his decision to run or not)
2- If Musavi decide to run (he will made decide in 2 weeks), Khatami will move out of race (his own word)
3-Even if Khatami stay in this race he will split votes of opposition with Karubi who has significant support.
4- Khatami this time around does not have massive support he used to enjoy few years back and reluctantly has accepted to run because Pro US reformers has no other alternative to offer.
5-AhmadNejad enjoys majorly support in small towns and rural areas.
6- Deciding factors are Rev Guards & Basij block (approximate 10 million votes) and they are totally behind Mahmud.

7- Pro US reform movement in Iran is no longer enjoying support and prestige they used to have.
8- Khatami this time around is perceived as weak with less credibility.

Unless Musavi enter the race Ahmadinejad will win with large margin not even close.

Time will show who is wong and right and I will be right here....

Posted by: | Feb 11 2009 15:47 utc | 7

Pepe Escobar, who has traveld Iran a lot, has a good overview piece at ATOL: Obama's Persian double

Posted by: b | Feb 11 2009 16:05 utc | 8

The Bush/Cheney regime (along with the Israelis) wanted Ahmedinejad in power, and succeeded in achieving that result. I wonder what kind of Iranian government the Obama administration wants.

Posted by: lysias | Feb 11 2009 16:25 utc | 9

About the US-Iran rapprochement, we shouldn't not forget that those that want war in fact are Israeli and pro-Israeli hawks; even leaving apart the most fantastic theories about Israel and its omnipotent role in US government, it should be noted that, since they disperately need Iran's help in Afghanistan and for other problems in the region, even if the US may come to term with Iran (US are allied with countries that would make contemporary and Shah's Iran look like Sweden) like they did under Khatami first term as president, while Israel government, and the think tanks around it, pretend it to be the only powerful country of the whole region, and for that they need a very friendly (and submissive under many important internal and external policies) government in Teheran, much more than Khatami's one has been and would ever be.
So unless the reformists and the conservatives are willing to show to the US they will be a much better ally than Israel (which is unlikely, even for the most leftist reformist willing to run at the elections) and become US first ally in the regions at Israel's expenses (which is as likely as the possibility to become the Emperor of Japan without being Japanese).
And, overall, as we've seen during the attack against Gaza, Obama's administration doesn't seem to be willing to take distances from Israel.

Posted by: andrew | Feb 11 2009 16:45 utc | 10

What Ahmadinejad did was to install people at all levels of the economy, based purely on their religious fundamentalism, creating chaos and corruption
Reminds me of some recent American president. Same behaviour, same consequences.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Feb 11 2009 16:45 utc | 11


Thanks for the interesting discussion about your country.

The books you suggested (from an earlier thread) weren't at the local used bookstore, so I'll get them on my next trip to the "big town."

From the bits of Iran's history I've gleaned off the web, it's not an aggressive country. It would be more factual to say it's the region's whipping boy who is always getting picked-on by its neighbors.

It's a shame, given how unbalanced most of the region seems, that the U.S. isn't able to eat crow, forget the hostage crisis and move foreword to normalized relations with Tehran. Obama appears to be in the perfect position to begin using a carrot of economic partnership rather than the neo-con stick of endless war to re-unite the U.S. with what is probably the regions most legitimate government.

I feel we'd be better served forgiving and forgetting our past differences and working as partners while forging a lasting peaceful Mid-East. Imagine if the mid-east balance of power was an Iran-U.S. alliance rather than an Israel-U.S. alliance? Russia wouldn't like that. Israel wouldn't like that. But I imagine the Iranians could end much of the region's discord with diplomacy, and if that didn't work, there would be the threat of crazy americans with bombs and planes coming back to practice making live targets dead.

In my little world of happy dreams, every country's neo-con visions of conquest has ended and everyone realizes how much better-off they are getting along with each other than killing each other. Let future battles be on sports fields fought over balls with the losers buying beers as opposed to ending up dead, rotting in the mud.

But then I wake-up...

Posted by: David | Feb 11 2009 16:46 utc | 12

Thank you all for your interest in my country.

Lysander (6), that's a hugely difficult question to answer, which shows how difficult a 'Grand Bargain' will be. I believe that, in return for complete Iranian cooperation with the U.S. on Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and uranium enrichment safeguards/control (but not cessation), Iran will demand a total lifting of U.S./U.N. sanctions, unfreezing of the $ 20 billion of Iranian assets seized by the U.S. in 1979, a non-aggression treaty (by the U.S. and Israel), an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders and a U.S.-guaranteed 2-state solution for Palestine. Those who think this sounds far-fetched or even laughable should know that a similar deal was offered by Khamenei (during Khatemi's presidency) via a fax transmitted to the U.S. State Dept. on May 2nd, 2003 via the Swiss Embassy (responsible for U.S. interests in Iran). In the Islamic Republic everything is negotiable and in fact one of the most powerful Revolutionary Guards figures is Mohsen Rezai, Chairman of the State Expediency Council that has veto power over all parliamentary bills. The word 'Expediency' tell you just about everything. The U.S. rejected the 2003 offer, to its own detriment (and Iran's), so I believe cooler heads will prevail on both sides this time round. My scenario above is a massive win-win situation for both sides. The U.S. needs Iran's assistance throughout the region, otherwise the U.S. will bleed to death, while Iran needs massive foreign investment simply to keep unemployment at current levels!

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 17:29 utc | 13

Poster No. 7, well, yours is obviously the alternative view based on several premises which I believe are all false:

1. You have things back to front: Mussavi (or Moussavi) was only prepared to run if Khatemi didn't. Mussavi has already withdrawn, in any case preferring to stay in the background.

2. Karoubbi is a joke. He made a complete fool of himself in the 2005 election by promising to pay every Iranian the equivalent of $ 60 if he won! I don't know how you can possibly consider Karroubi a serious candidate.

3. Everyone knows that Ahmadinejad temporarily bought popularity in the rural areas, but at what cost? Inflation and unemployment have nullified those gains.

4. You assume Iran doesn't really want or need a Grand Bargain. Obviously you're not one of the 15 million unemployed, not one of the 2 million official drug addicts, not one of the 200,000 prostitutes and not somebody forced to beg or steal to survive. They say that "in politics one week is a long time", and you can be sure that by June 12th the situation will be measurably worse than even today. With the threat from the U.S-Israel eliminated, Khamenei and everyone else will be forced to focus on how to employ the 2 million ADDITIONAL annual entries into the work force, which would require GDP growth of 8 % per annum just to prevent an increase in the already unprecedented unemployment.

Don't get me wrong: The U.S. needs Iran just as much as vice versa, which is why I'm optimistic that Khamenei won't stand in the way of Khatemi's candidacy and may even encourage it, as he did in 2001 when Khatemi won 79 % of the vote against Nategh-Nouri, a fierce hardliner. Iran's aim, like America's, is a win-win Grand Bargain. Iranians and Americans are fed up with "more of the same" and neither can afford it. If Ahmadinejad wins I predict war, possibly followed by civil war.

I'm not going anywhere, Anonymous, so we can compare notes on June 12th.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 17:48 utc | 14

I believe that many underestimate how desperate both the U.S. and Iran are to find a solution. These two reluctant enemies have far more in common than, for example, S. Arabia and the U.S., and can contribute infinitely more, together, to the welfare of the region than can any two other nations. Israel has caused much loss of blood, treasure and reputation to the U.S., so in due course the U.S. will bring Israel to heal. Andrew (10), you correctly state that Obama's administration doesn't seem to be willing to take distances from Israel. Correct, but this could be the main bargaining chip in any eventual Grand Bargain. Israel has been nothing less than a thorn in America's (and everyone else's) side for too long and damaged its cause irreparably in Gaza.

David, you're right, Iran, contrary to popular perception, has been historically a peaceful nation and I am delighted by the overwhelming number of readers' letters favouring rapprochement with Iran in the mainstream press. This wasn't the case 2 years ago. Israel: You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 18:06 utc | 15

One other point: It's quite possible that the Conservative vote will be damaged by the candidacy of Qalibaf, a 'wild card' who has both tough credentials as a former Revolutionary Guards Commander and excellent managerial skills, which he demonstrated both as Police Chief (under Khatami) and as Tehran Mayor (under Ahmadinejad). He was voted the world's 8th best Mayor in 2008:

Qalibaf, interesting Iranian presidential candidate

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 18:20 utc | 16

Reply to b:
Pepe is great journalist, well travellec and well informed specially about Iran. He had many valid points but wrong in few like when he suggest Larijany might be a candidate.
Latest on Musavi.
Etemadmelli site just reportan hour ago that Musavi will will announce his candidacy this SAT

Khatami is on the record stating if Musavi enter this race , he will be out .
Musavi supporters site Nasime88 yet to make such declaration.

Posted by: | Feb 11 2009 18:25 utc | 17

@Parviz - I believe that, in return for complete Iranian cooperation with the U.S. on Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and uranium enrichment safeguards/control (but not cessation), Iran will demand a total lifting of U.S./U.N. sanctions, unfreezing of the $ 20 billion of Iranian assets seized by the U.S. in 1979, a non-aggression treaty (by the U.S. and Israel), an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders and a U.S.-guaranteed 2-state solution for Palestine.

Forget about the Israel non-aggression and the Palestine guarantee. That's impossible for any U.S. president to get through Congress.

I also do not believe that Iran would ever consider "total cooperation" - at least not in the current configuration. It would probably reduce support for Hamas (there is only moral support now and a bit of money), Hezbollah (can provide for itself) and help with logistics in Afghanistan (in its own interest).

It would welcome full IAEA inspections and an internationalization of its enrichment program and heavy water reactor. It would commit to some verifiable missile treaty, i.e. restrictions on the range of its military missiles. To get that sanctions will have to be lifted and some form of non-aggression pact will have to be signed with the U.S. The 20 billion is peanuts though I understand the symbolic of it.

The real issue here is trust.

The U.S. killed the Iranian democracy in 1958. It brought in the Shah and the CIA and Mossad trained Shavak. Khamenei was six years imprisoned and tortured by these goons. The MLK, likely with support from the U.S. tried to kill Khamenei with a bomb. Since then he can not use his right arm and has constant pain.

The imposed war - 8 years with half a million Iranians killed by Saddams army - again with U.S. support - is certainly not forgotten either. The U.S. is currently financing schemes against the Iranian government.

The whole issue of some arrangement with the U.S. is deeply personal for Khamenei and others in the ruling gang. The do not trust the U.S. and they have very plausible reasons not to trust it whatever it says.

The U.S. will have to do some steps to gain some trust in Iran. It will have to stop making threats first. Then some arrangement around full IAEA inspections and sanctions. Then some small step on non-mil goods to Afghanistan. Small steps. Small steps. The grand bargain is the endgame, but to get there will take some time and will need the building of trust through smaller steps first and over years.

Posted by: b | Feb 11 2009 18:32 utc | 18


than you very much for your interventions here & especially on questions iranian but not solely

i'm not sure you are correct though in your interpretation, on what i read & observe it seems to me that ahmadinejad will win by a significant majority - especially given israels careening to the hard right & creating even greater instability in the region. unfortunately, israel will be a decisive factor in the elections

i thank you for bringing humanity where we are so used to demonisation - & it is a reality today that islam has replaced nationalist or liberation movements not only in the middle east but elsewhere - the left would do well to look at itself why that is the case. it is true that u s imperialism has been on a long project to destabilise & destroy secular & national movements - murdering both the leadership & the rank of file

in the iranian revolution - the left was in a position to create a republic but it was liquidated a s a force very quickly indeed & quite ruthlessly - iranian of the left have been great contributors to a just world not only in iran but elsewhere - why did they fail so colassally in establishing themlselves as a force

i am a communist but i am not prepared to demonise islam as a force because in fact they have brought a balance where otherwise u s imperialism would have created even greater destruction, in lebanon for example

sometimes, i think you underestimate the precarity in which the greater majority of those in the west live - & it has now reached critical stages - it is clear it is going to get considerably worse - catastrophically so

the 'guarantees' of free speech, liberty etc are almost non existant as they were once perceived. they have largely become surveillance societies & any real effective dissent is marginalised, thwarted & destroyed. yes it exists but it is nearly alway approaching jurisprudence to guard against infringements. that jurisprudence which has always been close to power is even closer. in the final analysis - freedom etc are notion that are npt followed by concrete reality. the poorer you are in the west - the less these notion have any real meaning

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 11 2009 18:46 utc | 19

& the rapprochement presumes a souplesse in us imperialist policy that i believe to be non existant - as the russians will find to their loss in afghanistan

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 11 2009 18:57 utc | 20

The Iranian Election - An Economic View

Great Post Parviz, not plant yourself in the Beltway and write The Iranian Election - An Economic View from the POV of our Masters in Washington.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Feb 11 2009 19:02 utc | 21

b (18), any 'Grand Bargain' will not occur overnight but in several stages. The important thing is for the 2 sides to have a roadmap that is feasible and practical. If the initial stages of the roadmap are successful and each side gains trust in the other I don't see why an Israeli non-aggression pact and a 2-state Palestine solution cannot be approved by Congress in due course. Success breeds success and gains its own momentum.

I never suggested that every element of the Grand Bargain would be approved instantly and simultaneously. As you correctly write, progress would be incremental.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 19:15 utc | 22

remembereringgiap, the reason the Iranian Left was destroyed despite having contributed so much to the Revolution was because they were split into 2 groups (The Fadayeen-e-Khalgh and the Mujaheddin-e-Khalgh) that were both seen as Islamic-Marxists and were therefore despised equally by Mullahs and nationalists. The Mujaheddin (MEK) went one step further and unbelievably supported Saddam's invasion of Iran, setting up a training camp (Ashraf) inside Iraq and for a while carrying out terrorist bombings inside Iran. The Left are seen in Iran as opportunistic traitors and have no future.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 19:21 utc | 23

The fact that Parviz whose point of view I normally greatly respect, tells us that the likely winner is Khatami is troubling.
I find it sad that the only viable alternative for Iran appears to be another neo-liberal globalist whose policies may have superficially 'cured' the most obvious illnesses which Parviz describes, had he been in office before 2007 but now in the 'cowardly new world' post sub-prime chaos will end up sacrificing Iran's economic independence for little or no gain.
amerika is never going to give back the $20 Billion it confiscated in 1979 which is worth many times more than that now, least of all right now. In fact if Khatami opens Iran up right now the policies which so appealed to urban liberals before will now bite them on the bum as Iran's avowed enemies use the new openess to rip out Iran's wealth to stave of collapse of their own teetering economies.

Think. If the crooks who run amerika fancy Khatami's policies why would that be a good thing for Iran? Given those same policies have increased unemployment and drug dependence in amerika and throughout the western societies, how could they fix Iran's drug culture or unemployment?

The people of Iran are being sold a lemon by the same mob of foreign greedheads who have fucked them over worse than their own greedheads whenever they have had the opportunity.
After all the shit Iran has been through getting rid of them, don't let the creeps back in.

Iran is economically strong enough to manage it's wealth itself, but only if strict controls on foreign engagement are maintained, allowing 100% foreign investment in any sector at a time of internal recession will guarantee that position is destroyed, and quickly.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 11 2009 19:21 utc | 24

@17, well, one week in politics is indeed a long time. I expect many such reversals during the next couple of months. The Etemad-e-Melli article is a surprise, considering that Mussavi made way for Khatemi in 1997 and 2001, and withdrew from seeking the presidency in 2005.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 19:31 utc | 25

Just in from Press TV: Moussavi to announce presidential bid

The former Iranian prime minister, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, has reportedly decided to enter the country's upcoming presidential race.

According to a report by Fars News Agency, Moussavi will officially announce his candidacy on Saturday.

Moussavi runs on the Reformist platform and is a member of the National Confidence (Etemad-e-Melli) Party.

If Moussavi joins Iran's presidential race he will become the third candidate from the Reformist camp.

Former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, who heads the National Confidence Party, has also announced his bid for presidency.

Iran's former Reformist president, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, has also declared his final decision to run for president in the June 12 elections.

While the incumbent Principlist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has yet to declare his bid, it is widely believed that he will seek a second term.

I believe that Katahmi (who is sounded rather reluctant to run at all) might now backtrack and leave the race.

@Parviz - your opinion on Moussavi?

Posted by: b | Feb 11 2009 19:45 utc | 26

Debs (26), I found your post elitist and extremely insensitive to the needs and predicament of ordinary Iranians.

The choice is between Revolution/civil war and gradual change. Although most Iranians are fed up with 30 years of Islamic corruption and Godlessness the last thing they want is more bloodshed after a bloody revolution and a war that lasted 2 years longer than WWII, so they prefer the lesser of 2 evils.

It's easy for you, Debs, to state that Iranians should stay strong and independent and to tell the U.S. and Israel to "screw themselves", but that can only be done by a strong Mullah dictatorship that achieves such 'independence' at the cost of domestic freedom and prosperity. So you can cheer Iranian 'independence' all you like: Those of us living here are totally fed up with having "nothing but independence" and being asked to sacrifice our nation's unbelievable wealth and human potential, especially when asked to do so by a bunch of corrupt Mullahs.

And what, may I ask, is wrong with the Chinese Model which attracts $ 50 billion of annual foreign investment, creates 10 % perennial Hyper-Growth, creates jobs and produces consumer products that the major foreign investors then have to import into their own countries, thereby exporting their own jobs? Are you telling me that China has "sacrificed its independence" by attracting foreign investment? The way I see it, China would never have become so strong and independent without massive foreign investment, so the U.S.A. has hung itself with its own petard, having once owed its high standard of living, and now its bankruptcy, to the Chinese. Why shouldn't Iran do the same, i.e., attract massive foreign investment under market terms and conditions, thereby making foreigners dependent on Iran? 'Economic independence' doesn't mean adopting a nihilistic policy of underdevelopment, zero trade and zero tourism.

I have argued till I was blue in the face, with top Iranian government officials, that the Chinese Model didn't represent a threat but an opportunity to develop Iran's unimaginable economic potential. What you're suggesting is that we Iranians stay backward, poor but proudly independent. You won't find many living in Iran who would agree with you. We would prefer 10% annual growth and become an 'investment grade' nation, even if we have to put up with the Mullahs, than to experience civil war and the lawlessness that would inevitably follow, or alternatively domestic economic strangulation, which is what you seem to be recommending in rejecting a globalist solution for Iran.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 19:59 utc | 27

b (26), Moussavi was an economic disaster for Iran as its P.M. in the Eighties, but not entirely his own fault as it coincided with the Iran-Iraq war. He is certainly qualified for the post of President but the best 8 years of Iran's post-1979 history occurred on Khatemi's watch, not Moussavi's, and Moussavi has always played 2nd fiddle to Khatemi.

The announcement of his candidacy in the pro-Moussavi Etemad-e-Melli should be taken with caution. Press TV, the official Islamic Republic mouthpiece, is a more accurate guide:

Khatemi to choose Moussavi as Veep

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 20:11 utc | 28

It's almost midnight and I'm turning in, so please excuse any delayed responses to urgent queries.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 11 2009 20:18 utc | 29

@Parviz 28 - Press TV, the official Islamic Republic mouthpiece, is a more accurate guide

I quoted a Press TV piece published today, you link one published Jan. 19 - now which is it.

Seriously - any background links on Moussavi? If he runs and Kathami retracts the 'western' press will be thoroughly confused. They lauded Ahmedinejad in 2005 as a successful mayor of Tehran. Well - wasn't enough to be really good as president. Now upthread someone markets Moussavi as successful mayor of Tehran. Wondering how that will turn out.

Posted by: b | Feb 11 2009 20:26 utc | 30

Reply to Parviz:

Musavi will not re enter into politic to be Veep . He has already rejected such offers . Indeed Karoubi had similar offer to Musavi.
If Musavi enter into the race , he is there to be president . Khatami last month visited 2 times Musavi to encouage him to run . Musavi was so smart not to play into Khatami's game and time tables . He said he will announce his decision later on by his own chosing.

If He enter, Khatami had to leave ( as he said he will# because simply just like last time reformer's vote will split into three , since Karoubi will neber leave.

Musavi if enter . has a better chance than Khatami, it will be close and Bassej will decide the winner.

Musavi is Khamenei's 1/2 brother , his real name is Mir Hossein Musavi Khameneei .
Unlike Khamenei who is a moderate conservative, Musavi is a Leftist # close to center).Unlike Khatami Musavi is strong and firm and not about to open arm to US/rael.

Unlike Khatami and his group he is not pro US.

It might be weird but all 3 , Musavi, Khatami,Ahmadinejad are not Party candidate and independent unlike Karoubi.

Posted by: Loyal | Feb 11 2009 20:36 utc | 31

Parviz: that's the point. What Israeli Army did in Gaza stip up rage in the whole world, but US government (and with it all the other pro-US politicians and intellectuals in the world) said, more or less, "Well, yeah, Israeli kinda exaggerated. Right, maybe targeting UN buildings, mosques and schools was not kind, but, hey, they're just defending themselves".
I find those that see Jews leading the whole world or that see the US as a client state of Israel for some esotheric and/or pseudomassonic reason very ridicoulous, but the fact that, despite other pro-US Arab countries in the region are much more reliable than Israel, it has a white check to do anything wants, without paying consequences, which is one of the main reasons that makes US unpopular in Middle East. They bombed Lebanon, a US ally, for a month and, despite that, no rethinkings in the strategic plans. So is unlikely that a rapprochement with Iran, a wannabe ally, will help to loose the ties between US and Israel and reform them, despite it would be a better deal.

Personally, I think that what could tell us if the relationship between US and Iran will get better will be the sanctions: only if the US will work to lift them the relations will improve. But actually it just seem that the rest of the neocons still around and other Iranophobes are working to more U.N. sanctions. Without making compairsons with the much more tragic situation of Iraq after the '91 war (where the sanctions were the real weapon of mass distruction), I'm afraid that since economic and trade sanctions are already in action and on the table, the next may hit directly on important and indispensable things (medicines, techinical devices, etc), officially in the hope to stir Iranian population against the government, in reality to weaken it to the point that everyday life of most of the population will collapse to postwar conditions, turning Iran into a failed state for good.

Posted by: | Feb 11 2009 22:58 utc | 32

Even after all the debate we've seen so far, I think Parviz is to be congratulated on his analysis. He may be right, he may be wrong. Who is always right on political analyses? Nevertheless, he has added to our knowledge in a way that was not available before.

The point that I wanted to recall, though perhaps obvious, is that a decision by Israel to attack Iran has littedtle to do with the real situation in Iran, but rather to do with paranoias in Israel. It is curious, I find, that I no longer want to say "a decision by the US or Israel". Has US aggression against Iran disappeared from the agenda, but remains in Israel? I would have to say yes. I don't see enthusiasm in the US for an attack on Iran, but in Israel, it is "necessary" in order to resolve the problems with the Palestinians. Of course, such an attack would not be useful to resolve Israel's problems. It might nevertheless be done.

In my view such an attack would now be isolated. The world will say, "yeah, yet another attack by Israel". Difficult for the US to follow up.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 11 2009 23:09 utc | 33

@Parviz I don't have time to respond in full right now and I regret you find my post elitist, I suppose I could argue that the adoption of neo-liberal ideals is more elitist since the inevitable result of that is a greater divide between the haves and gave nots but silly name calling never fixed anything.

Iran is not China and it is foolish to imagine that a model which suits China would neccesarily suit Iran. For one thing Iran does not have the huge population base that China has, Iran's immediate strength comes from oil and a population that is more highly educated than that of most nations which have oil resources.

I didn't suggest that 'things should stay the same' as you appear to claim I did what I said was that it is a cause of some regret that a neo-liberal will win and I would have said the same about an unreconstructed fundamentalist winning as well, because the fact that there are only two potential philosphies to choose from doesn't mean these are the only philosophies which could address Iran's problems.

If Iran does go for immediate rapprochement with US/Israel via neo-liberalism, the price for ordinary Iranians particularly the working classes and rural people will be very high indeed because those classes of citizens are judged by the neo-liberal model to be surplus to requirements, and allowed to exist solely as base consumerist economic units, with little opportunity for upward mobility.

Look at the mess the Gulf states are in. Every attempt at diversification into non-oil industry is marginally economic and will probably fail as soon as oil revenues falter and the cross subsidies disappear.

Iran's problems cannot be cured with any instant fix economics of the sort the amerikan empire will force upon Iran as the price of being taken off the 'evil empire' list.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 12 2009 0:08 utc | 34

#32 is me, sorry.

Posted by: andrew | Feb 12 2009 0:29 utc | 35

I'm with Debs on this. Everything you mentioned, Parviz, is straight from the Neoliberalist, Free Market playbook, and we all know how well that has ended for all the other countries around the globe who have had it shoved down their throats.

Point #2 is especially egregious, and is the same crap pulled by the Juntas in South America. Allowing Multi-Nationals free reign in your country means the end of your country.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Feb 12 2009 0:54 utc | 36

i find it difficult to believe countries, no matter how conflicted - would find the temptations of the west, credible

everything is falling apart, & falling apart fundamentally

it seems only in latin america is a real humanism being rediscovered

it cannot come as news - that the so called cohesion of western societies is fatally constructed on the oppression pf others & the more critical it gets it begins its bloody harvest on its own its own people. the west since the time of the monstrous thatcher has lived with a significant underclass that it has left amongst the debris. what is happening in the last year is that the middle class, those who have depended on their white skin privilege - have been brought down low - with their jobs, their houses & their security torn asunder

can the american dream exist for people when what we are clearly living with is a nightmare, an endless bloody nightmare

i think it was kch who spoke of the same sullen stupidity in the fatal enterprise of spanish imperialism but surely it cannot have been as stupid so solemnly stupid as it is today

wherever the empire places its bloody feet they are being outwitted - in afghanistan for example, they are being outwitted by tribesmen who have no need of georgetown university

holbrooke will find he is in hell

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 12 2009 2:19 utc | 37

and we all know how well that has ended for all the other countries around the globe who have had it shoved down their throats.

Worked well for new zealand. NZ is a playground for liberal reform. And it worked from about 90 to 96. The era of liberalized trade has benefited developing asia & india, if by liberalization is meant that china & india have opened up to foreign direct investment, lifting the standard of living for hundreds of millions. It's been good times for capitalists, all around.

Unquestionably, Iran would benefit from trade and FDI aimed at diversifying the economy beyond the export of rugs and oil.

Posted by: slothrop | Feb 12 2009 2:34 utc | 38

Worked well for new zealand.

It sure did, as was witnessed by their epidemic adolescent suicide rates.

High NZ Suicide Rate Concerns Health Researcher

A national expert on child health today called for all New Zealanders to heed the high number of teenage and young adult suicides in New Zealand and what this says about our current society.

Speaking at his Inaugural Professorial Lecture, University of Otago Professor Barry Taylor said that New Zealand adolescent and young adult male suicide rates are amongst of the highest amongst countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In 1997, 29 females and 113 males under the age of 25 committed suicide, and even with the increased health service funding, there has been no reduction in the rate of suicides over the past ten years.

He said that the government needs to urgently address problems faced by child health services.

According to Professor Taylor, many NZ suicide victims had significant mental illnesses or were seriously depressed. Yet a recent review of all specialty child services by The Paediatric Society of New Zealand in collaboration with the Health Funding Authority has revealed significant deficiencies in mental health funding.

Professor Taylor says that our children are increasingly isolated and unconnected with the wider community and he believes that social fragmentation in New Zealand could be an important factor in our high suicide rates.

"Recent UK research has shown that mobility, rental accommodation, unmarried people and single person households are more significant contributors to high youth suicide levels than poverty, and it could well be the case here."

Posted by: Obamageddon | Feb 12 2009 3:23 utc | 39

You found a datum there, obamagedon

Deregulation also helped to lift NZ after it was hammered by the Asian banking crisis.

More liberalization: state owned enterprises were privatized everywhere with good results for growth.

Facts. What do you do with them?

Posted by: slothrop | Feb 12 2009 3:42 utc | 40


You have finally achieved something very difficult, even for you: You and your "datums" now come across as a charicature of yourself: the laughing Neo-Liberal Marxist stampeding through the post-modern hall of mirrors.

Perhaps, you are really Christopher Hitchens in intellectual drag, looking for a "datum" for Saturday night.

The Asian Tigers were cut some slack by the non-existent Empire to serve as a regional hedge to China. Iran, however, will be sold the proverbial rope to hang itself. I wonder what color Soros has in mind when he redecorates the place?

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 12 2009 4:38 utc | 41

Parviz finally betrays his business-class interests, regardless of where he buys his soap.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 12 2009 4:39 utc | 42

Thanx again Parviz. I don't believe that the U.S. will ever agree to those terms (Israel to pre-'67 borders, ending sanctions etc.)

In fact, I don't think the U.S. will ever agree to lift sanctions, unless Iran is willing to enter the kind of relationship the U.S. has with Egypt or Jordan, namely the relationship of puppet and string.

Lifting sanctions means 10's of billions of investment dollars flooding Iran. It means the U.S. is agreeing to Iran becoming a very serious regional power, and frankly the U.S. cannot countenance such a thing. Like I mentioned before, none of the close U.S. Arab allies have launched a satellite or produced a nuclear program. This is not by coincidence.

So when we say Iran has to give up its independence, we mean it quite literally. And you will miss it when its gone.

Iran must act in its own interests of course, but honestly, its best interests will not be served by agreeing to the deal the U.S. has in mind.

But it's probably worth it to elect Khatami and see for yourself. Then you will at least know that you tried to be reasonable.

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 12 2009 5:36 utc | 43

And yes, I appreciate your work here, Parviz, but I agree with debs and giap.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 12 2009 5:51 utc | 44

O.K., let’s split my reply to all comments into 2 posts:

1. The election result.
Clearly Moussavi is back in the running, which contradicts my earlier statement and earlier press reports, but the latest Press TV article provided by b clearly states Khatemi is also running. I think we can all agree that one of them must withdraw before June to ensure a reformist victory. As for Karroubi, he is a potential ‘spoiler’ for the pragmatists, as is Qalibaf for the conservatives. But the fact that protesting university students throughout Iran have begun chanting Khatemi’s name at demonstrations suggests he is under enormous pressure to run. He is also one of the few Mullahs who actually believes in God rather than possessions, so his exceptional conscience may oblige him to throw his turban into the ring. Also, Moussavi’s ‘prestige’ as Khamenei’s half-brother does not endear him to the youth of this country which won the election for Khatemi in both ’97 and ’01 in protest against the Conservative status quo.

Nonetheless, if Khatemi withdraws I shall eat humble pie on this Blog. More important than the prediction, I believe is the fundamental question of Iran’s future and independence mentioned by Debs and others that I shall address in my next post.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 8:38 utc | 45

I purposely placed the word ‘independence’ in inverted commas because it is a loaded word that means different things to different people. Cuba is politically ‘independent’ but economically ‘dependent’ on heavily fluctuating tourist receipts and transfers from expatriates in the U.S.. Economically, Cuba is where it was 50 years ago. There is ‘independence’, while education and health standards have remained high, but there is zero political freedom and the standard of living has sunk since 1991 when subsidies from the Soviet Union ceased. Per capita income is less than $ 400/month, one of the lowest in Latin America, and the population is hostage to a dynasty. Not many people envy Cuba its ‘independence’.

Let’s go closer to home and look at a nation that is both Iran’s neighbour and also a Muslim country: Turkey is a prime example of an economic backwater that advanced through foreign investment and globalization. But this didn’t stop its P.M. from walking out on Peres at Davous, from repeatedly criticizing both the U.S. and Israel, or from refusing the U.S. permission to use its air space for an attack on Iran. By becoming strong economically, by becoming economically independent, Turkey has gained enormous regional influence that wouldn’t have existed without economic progress triggered by globalization.

China should have had more to fear from globalization than any other nation, = Communist paranoia about ‘Western’ influences, social disturbance and demands for human rights. But it ‘globalized’ with a vengeance, has decoupled from the U.S.A. and now virtually ‘owns’ the U.S., to such an extent that it is now using its $ 1.5 trillion of surplus foreign exchange mountain to invest inwardly, to compensate for the fall in export revenues. Which of you considers the U.S.A. more ‘independent’ than China? (I want a show of hands on this one).

I know where you’re all coming from: You look at U.S. regional serfs S. Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the U.A.E., etc.,. and place Iran in the same category. You’re dead wrong. These nations had to sell out to the West (especially to the U.S.) and kiss Israel’s a$$ so as to achieve a quantum economic leap, because they had no history, no varied natural resources, no security, no education, no culture and no manpower. Iran has all of these in abundance. Where the artifically created Persian Gulf states bought U.S. culture and U.S. protection with oil money, there is not a chance in Hell that an influx of FDI would transform Iran into a Qatar or a U.A.E.. The Shah tried that once and the nation rebelled.

I’m sometimes amazed how many of you knowledgeable and concerned barflies can praise Iran’s potential so highly while calling for limits on its economic development. Whenever Iran encourages FDI it will become Turkey on steroids, economically stronger and politically even more independent as a rult. Iran will never again become an American slave, irrespective of its economic situation or the level of foreign investment. So while I (genuinely and gratefully) appreciate your concern, I advocate peace with the U.S., a rapid end to sanctions, development of the Iran-Europe gas pipeline, the Turkmenistan-B/Abbas pipeline, the IPI pipeline, massive FDI in LNG and other such projects that would make the world dependent on Iran, and certainly not vice versa. The annual outflux of 200,000 Iranian university students, Iran's best brains, to the U.S. for want of job opportunities, would reverse with a vengeance as it did in the early 1970s.

Few of you have any idea what Iran (as opposed to some weaker Western and Asian countries) could achieve under globalization. You need "different horses for different courses".

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 8:50 utc | 46

Debs, re your comment

"Look at the mess the Gulf states are in. Every attempt at diversification into non-oil industry is marginally economic and will probably fail as soon as oil revenues falter and the cross subsidies disappear."

I hope my post (46) answered your concerns. The following may convince you further: Just for the record, Iran's proven, easily exploitable natural resources consist of the following:

Crude Oil, 135 billion barrels at $37 / barrel = $ 5,000 billion
Gas, 26 billion cubic metres at 20 cents/M3 = $ 5,000 billion
Metals, 40 billion tons at $ 120/MT = $ 5,000 billion

GDP. Main components are: Services 50 %, Industry 20 %, Agriculture 20 %, Oil 10 %.
Largest shipping fleet (IRISL) in the Middle East. Transit trade facilitated through 16 land and sea borders (= 2nd only to Russia). World’s 3rd largest dam builder (71 large dams completed in 25 years). Produces 1 million cars, 13 million tons of wheat and 8 million tons of steel annually. Has attracted $ 219 billion of long-term hydrocarbon investments from China, Japan and India despite U.S./U.N. sanctions, acc. to the ultra-Conservative American Enterprise Institute. Has crucial ‘SWAP’ agreements with landlocked Central Asia. Besides the $ 75 billion of oil revenues, non-oil exports are booming, estimated at $ 20 billion in FY 2008, giving a combined total of $ 95 billion compared with total oil and non-oil exports of just $ 6 billion in 1998.
Iran has achieved an Agricultural Top 20 global ranking by the F.A.O. in 24 categories of agricultural products. Iran produces more grapes than Argentina, Australia, Chile and South Africa, more oranges than Greece and Turkey, more wheat than Argentina, Kazakhstan and Poland, more apples than Italy and Germany, and more figs than Morocco. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (“FAO”) has published its latest global producer statistics on its web site (, which shows Iran to be Global No. 1 in pistachio production, No. 2 in dates and essential oils, No. 3 in watermelon production, No. 5 in fresh fruit, etc.,. In high volume grain production Iran is also well represented at No. 12 globally in wheat (12.9 million tons/annum) and No. 17 in barley (3.1 million tons). Other notable global rankings are No. 7 in hazel-nuts, No. 8 in oranges, No. 12 in honey, No. 14 in potatoes (3.6 million tons) and No. 17 in rice (3.3 million tons). Iran achieves a Global Top 20 ranking in 10 other agro-categories.
(Iran also produces 70 % of the world’s saffron, curiously omitted by the FAO).

In contrast to other Persian Gulf nations the Iranian technological and labour force are both 100 % indigenous.

I don't believe you should worry that Iran might suffer the fate of the Persian Gulf states you refer to above, other than the normal cyclical ups and downs that apply to every nation.

The alternative is for Iran to remain a 'glorified Cuba' in the hands of a corrupt political elite, with zero broad-based development and just enough revenues to keep the regime in power forever via a combination of subsidies and terror. We Iranians could certainly represent more than "just oil and carpets", while remaining independent in the process.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 9:08 utc | 47

Debs, sorry for picking on you. I know your heart's in the right place. My responses apply equally to comments by Malooga, r'giap and others.

I just think you make the huge mistake of automatically equating FDI with relinquishment of a nation's independence. For some nations that's correct, for others it is actually the reverse. Money is power, as China and India have demonstarted.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 9:12 utc | 48

According to the CIA Factbook 2008, Iran already has the world's 17th largest economy DESPITE 3 decades of crippling economic sanctions. Anyone still want to compare Iran with the Persian Gulf states?

Iran's Economy. Size on PPP basis

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 9:21 utc | 49

Andrew (32) you are dead right. It's not Iran that's afraid of rapprochement but the Neocons-Zionists who realize just how powerful Iran would become with a sudden boost in FDI. The Neocons will do everything to prevent a rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. This flies totally in the face of comments by other barflies who think FDI would politically weaken Iran. Thanks for your valuable input.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 9:26 utc | 50

Sorry, everyone, the time difference means none of you can get a word in edgewise. O.K., now hit me baby one more time!

Luv y'all.


Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 9:28 utc | 51

FDI would just improve Iranian economy, that's right; for me FDI and "free trade" (Chicago School style) are not synonyms per se, but I think that the problem the other commentators are trying to highlight is that if FDI would arrive, it will arrive with unleashed neoliberist policies (and these, it should be noted, to be fully activated need the lifting of the sanctions), that will of course hurt Iranian people for the benefit of the economic oligarchy, I fully agree with them on that.
The possibility of trade itself is not a problem, the way it's sold to a country is. So if there will be a rapprochement, you Iranians should pay attention that, under the mask of free trade, doesn't hide one of those "shock therapies" that helped so much Argentina to reach the status of a post-war country.

Posted by: andrew | Feb 12 2009 11:31 utc | 52

The case of Chile seems apt. Wealthy are doing fine. 2/3 are dirt poor, and sinking. Country is an unmitigated environmental disaster. Every square piece of ground has been torn up to "produce" for the multinationals. All the tasty things they produce go into USA'ans watering mouths.

Cuba is an irrelevant comparison for many reasons.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 12 2009 12:43 utc | 53

Excellent commentary on the Iranian election, suggesting the U.S. should initiate talks with Ahmadinejad right away to dispel the impression that "Khatemi is the U.S.'s man". Trita Parsi continues:

"Opponents to Ahmadinejad argue that they will have an easier time pursuing diplomacy with the U.S. if negotiations are initiated already under Ahmadinejad and the conservatives," wrote Parsi. "It will simply be more difficult for the conservatives to oppose and undermine U.S.-Iran talks if those talks began when a conservative held the presidency."

Good article

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 13:45 utc | 54

I don't believe that Iran will end up as a vassal state like Egypt or Saudi Arabia. But I do believe that is what the U.S. has in mind. It will be very hard for them to accept a strong yet independent Iran. This is more than just the Neocons. The U.S. hated an Independent Chile, so they backed Pinochet. AIPAC had nothing to do with that one.

Your example of Turkey, while a good goal, isn't really valid. Turkey eagerly became a U.S. ally in the 1940's at the very beginning of the cold war. It was a time when the U.S. had to compete with Soviet influence. Countries had leverage then that they don't now. It has been an ally since then out of momentum. And even within Turkey you have what they call the "deep state," which Erdogan has had to confront. Turkey's growing independence is a recent development. And if there were a coup against Erdogan today, I bet the U.S. would be pleased as punch.

China actually **was** isolated by the U.S. for 30 years. Again, it was cold war politics that provided the impetus for rapprochement.

I'm not saying Iran shouldn't pursue better relations with the west. It should, but I'm afraid the price demanded in return will be more than even Khatami is willing to pay.

Posted by: Lysander | Feb 12 2009 13:56 utc | 55

Part II of Pepe Escobar's recent piece on Iran: US-IRAN WALL OF MISTRUST, Part 2 - Will Obama say 'we're sorry'?

Posted by: b | Feb 12 2009 14:34 utc | 56

I agree with Lysander's analysis.

I would like to also emphasize the geography of a particular country in determining policy and fate. Turkey was seen as the gateway to the East, the Black Sea and the Soviet Empire, and therefore infiltrated and then supported.

The lessons of the Ukraine is also apt here: The country, under its Orange revolution, is being slowly destroyed: deindustrialized -- kleptocratic wealth and great poverty -- so that it may serve as a mere transit route. Afghanistan is suffering a similar fate. Iran had better beware. It is already too wealthy to be a low-cost industrial crap producer, like Vietnam and Haiti -- is that really the direction it seeks to head in?

More apt are the BRIC bloc of nations -- which Iran aspires to join -- which are making industrial progress at great social and environmental costs -- costs which most of us here would opppose regardless of the nation.

No one is knocking Iran's wealth of resources. But look at Iraq, which also had a great wealth of resources. Look what the West has systematically done to it. It has been stated US policy since Kissinger's time to prevent the emergence of a strong Iraq or Iran.

So, yes, there are many growth opportunities, no denying, but there are also great hidden traps and pitfalls which Iran would do well to not loose sight of. Its strength is that so far it hasn't.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 12 2009 14:39 utc | 57


Thank you for all your work better helping us understand your views on Iran.

I'm convinced by your arguments. Something I've often overlooked when thinking of Iran is how long a citified, civilized, culture has existed there. This is one area that Iran has in common with China and something I feel westerners forget about.

America is heading towards its 250th year a fractured mess. Iran, China are zipping towards yet another thousand years of history in their respective boarders. I think the Chinese and the Iranians are far better at waiting then we are in the west. They know their day will come again.

I'm a jaded westerner. I've seen too many times america has thrown aside opportunities to resolve problems peacefully just because some company wants to make a few extra bucks. I'm sure the barflys each have a list of favorites they are thinking of right now.

I wish the warmongers didn't need to involve so many innocent people in their battles to find which side is the greediest and most vicious. Otherwise there might be hope that one day they'd kill each other off, leaving a peaceful world for the rest of us to start fixing.

But that's not the way, and wars are begun anew each day–just so some rich fucker can get his way.
The poor die, mothers cry, and it's far too late when people ask, "Why?"

Right now america needs iran's support more than iran needs america. Who would've thought they'd see that day?

Posted by: David | Feb 12 2009 14:51 utc | 58

Thanks, David, you've partially answered the posts by Lysander and Malooga. Lysander wrote that my example of Turkey was inappropriate because of the Cold War and that "Countries had leverage then that they don't now.". Well, IMHO Iran has infinitely greater leverage today than Turkey had in the 1940s, because:

-- Iran has the world's 2nd largest easily exploitable oil and gas reserves;
-- Iran is geo-strategically indispensable, with 16 land and sea borders plus control over the crucial Straits of Hormuz;
-- Iran has huge influence over Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, major troublespots where the U.S. and its tiny proxy are bleeding;
-- Iranians are infinitely patient, which is how they managed to play the U.S., Russia and China off against each other and make a mockery of E.U./U.S./U.N. sanctions;

And there is always the threat of "Allah Akbar" in the background if nothing else works! So don't worry about Iran's losing its independence, now, suddenly, after 2,500 years. It just won't happen.

What most forget is the danger of civil war if those 15 million unemployed don't get jobs, in which case partition would be a real possibility. That's how the U.S. and Israel might win, not by helping Iran to modernize.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 15:17 utc | 59

And Andrew (52), I take note of your friendly warnings, but don't compare Iran with Argentina either. Argentina is a glorified agro-state in the middle of nowhere. It has never fulfilled its early 20th century potential; it's been downhill ever since. A better example might have been Brazil, a real globalization success story like China and India.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 15:24 utc | 60

Lysander, 55: I don't believe that Iran will end up as a vassal state like Egypt or Saudi Arabia. But I do believe that is what the U.S. has in mind. It will be very hard for them to accept a strong yet independent Iran. This is more than just the Neocons. The U.S. hated an Independent Chile, so they backed Pinochet. AIPAC had nothing to do with that one.

The same can be said about what happened to Mossadegh. At that time Israel said nothing about him or say he was a new Hitler, while British and US newspapers published articles attacking him personally. These days, instead, the campagin against Iran is pushed on the basis on only that Ahmadinejad says that he wants to destroy Israel and so on, but that a nuclear Iran, no matter who will be the next president, is *the* menace. US and UK newspapers are giving the reformists space, up to the point that sometimes it seems that, accoding to them, if they will be elected the Middle East will become a new Wonderland, while Israeli newspapers (with a huge help from Saudi press, for its own interests) are more aggressive, and the conservative ones sometimes openly required to bomb it "before it's too late". Even Obama is saying he's willing to talk to Iran, while neocons are pushing on hysteria ("They're two hours away from having an A-bomb!").
US are surely hoping to find someone among the ruling class of the country that could "sell" Iranian economy, without engaging a war or a confrontation that even a child knows will be far more disruptive that the Iraq war, and that may led to anarchy in the region.
And, furthermore, to find a country that could counterbilance Israel may be another great deal too, since that may help US to have a more free hand in the zone. Bush administration and its Christian-Zionist fundamentalist circle could not even considerate it for ideological reasons, while Obama's much more secular group may seriously think about it.

As I said, I don't believe in cospirationist theories about US as a client state of Israel, but we should neither undervalue its role. And this seems to be the case.

Posted by: andrew | Feb 12 2009 15:25 utc | 61

Neoliberal deregulation has opened up vast markets and improved accumulation. But this is not an anglo-american phenomenon. One of the hackneyed stories heard from such persons as Chomsky is that China does capitalism on it's own terms and has fared much better than those countries who were sucked into the Washington Consensus of development. It's a tidy story that divides the world into good capitalism/bad capitalism praxes.

Well, the global recession proves an end to that fantasy. The reformist route cannot overcome the contradictions of capitalist expansion. Neither in Iran or anywhere else. And while market liberalism resulted undeniably in growth, these successes are always already betrayed by crises of acummulation.

Posted by: slothrop | Feb 12 2009 15:27 utc | 62

One of the hackneyed stories heard from such persons as Chomsky is that China does capitalism on it's own terms
It isn't as militarily aggressive and doesn't kill as many. Other than that, the same ultimate effect.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 12 2009 15:42 utc | 63

Anyway, gharbzadegi isn't capitalism.

Posted by: slothrop | Feb 12 2009 15:47 utc | 64

Just spotted this great letter in the NYT in response to a Roger Cohen Op-Ed:

I think Mr. Cohen is going to be this generation's W. Morgan Shuster. Shuster was the Treasurer-General of Persia, invited by Iran (then Persia) to modernize its finances. He was American, idealistic, and interested in the future of Persia. Britain conspired to have him relieved of his duties.

Upon his return to America, he wrote "The Strangling of Persia" (1912). The book is subtitled: "Story of European Diplomacy and Oriental Intrigue That Resulted in the Denationalization of Twelve Million Mohammedans." This book is still in print, and is an indispensable read for anyone interested in understanding what is motivating the present day Iranians.

— Neil, New York

RecommendedRecommended by 22 Readers

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 12 2009 19:57 utc | 65

Thanks for interesting reads, both about the political realities of Iran and the debate on development economics.

On economics I would start with agreeing with Debs sentiment:


I find it sad that the only viable alternative for Iran appears to be ...

It is indeed sad, and it does indeed appear to be the only (short-term) option. Khatami's program had the advantage of getting Iran to get a better deal for its rawmaterials in terms of goods (lower trade barriers). Some of that invested in means of production for other products (coupled with irans highly educated population) carried the promise of moving up the ladder to a more advantageous position. So far so good (and better then the current situation).

The global problem is that it is "development" in the sense that it allows for iranians to grab a bigger share of the rapacious global extraction of raw materials, the ends of which are getting in sight. Though I suspect there will be many more bubbles to come, each crashing the economy down to a lower level then before.

The local problem is that the main part of that share will go to a small portion of the iranians, enriching them and setting Iran up for getting swindeled by local elites into worse exposures in the coming bubbles (how do you say "it is a new economic paradigm, the old rules do not apply" in farsi?). Iceland being a contemporary example.

And to return to the quote from Debs, given Irans situation I do not really see a political and economical path that is both sustainable and would give the common iranian a lift. And I find that sad.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Feb 13 2009 9:42 utc | 66

Great post, Swedish. I think the reason for the differences of opinion between Debs and myself (I'm, generally speaking, not in her league) is that Debs describes what 'should' be and I describe what the best is that Iranians can hope for in the current circumstances, a point which you reiterated in your own post.

In an ideal world I would like the Mullahs to join their Rabbi friends in Hell, I would like a Mossadegh-style democracy WITHOUT the CIA's destroying it this time round, I would like many things .....

But the fact is that my scenario is the very best we can hope for in June (whether Khatemi or Moussavi wins is less important than Ahmadinejad's defeat). Iran's wealth is a curse. Do you think the Brits would have given India up so easily if its main forex revenue had been oil instead of tea? So where there is unimaginable wealth there is usually unimaginable greed and little need for democracy, because the regime can simply keep the coffers filled to overflowing by parcelling out bits of land (and Iran has plenty) to foreigners who take care of the exploration (exploitation), extraction and kickbacks to the Cayman Islands. The crumbs are then distributed among the people, just enough to prevent riots (which are occurring anyway).

If Iran had no natural wealth/resources the Mullahs would be on their knees begging the educated elite to run the country.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 13 2009 11:14 utc | 67

Yes, 66 & 67 seem to get to the heart of the matter, except that, to my knowledge, Debs is a he, not a she;-)

So where there is unimaginable wealth there is usually unimaginable greed and little need for democracy

The entire planet seems to be a case in point. So much suffering amidst splendiferous god-like abundance. Add to that, humans' penchant for hierarchical power structures.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 13 2009 15:14 utc | 68

Sorry, Debs.

Malooga, I sense an extraordinary fellowship on this thread. It's an oasis of sanity in an extremely troubled world, maybe even a world that is beyond salvation. Maybe this is why the thread often reflects the frustrations of its contributors, often bordering on (justifiable) cynicism that dismisses short term solutions, however well meant or practical, completely out of hand.

I cannot think of one single positive proposal, to solve the world's problems, or even to provide short-term relief to the hungry and the unemployed, that won't get shot down by other posters. Iran is a case in point. Do we hope that a 'less evil' president will be elected, at the risk of prolonging the lifetime of this very un-Islamic Republic? Or do we, in the knowledge that "Hell is answered prayers", reject such a solution and hope and pray for civil war, which at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives may just get rid of these bastards once and for all? And what would come after that? Would it be a case of "from the frying pan into the fire", = the worst of both worlds, with Iran less independent than before but with simply a new bloodsucking leadership replacing the old one?

This Blog has me very confused, which is probably a good thing.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 13 2009 15:42 utc | 69

Very O.T., but

(By Parviz)

I have a dream, of what will one day be recognized as the greatest proposal for peace in the history of the world, a proposal that would guarantee every person on this planet the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; a dream that one day the United Nations will become a truly unifying force, and that all the world's leaders will communicate their anger, their wishes and demands through songs instead of weapons. Whichever leader submitted the most amusing responses would prevail because, as the saying goes, “many a true word is spoken in jest”. Instead of Khruschev banging his shoe on the table or U.N. delegations walking out on other nations' speeches, each nation’s demands would have to demonstrate culture, artistic ability and humour. By singing instead of shouting (I recall the Puerto Ricans acerbically debating the relative merits and demerits of the U.S. in “Who wants to live in America?”), people would gradually realize how pathetic their disputes are:

Livni to Haniyeh:
"This land is our land, this land is my land,
From Samaria, to old Judea ........ (apologies to Woody Guthrie)

Haniyeh’s response:
"You're gonna get out of this place,
If it's the last thing you ever do...." (apologies to The Animals)

Obama to Khamenei:
"So tell me what you want, what you really really want" (Spice Girls)

Khamenei's reponse:
Find out what it means to me
Take care, TCB (Aretha)

And so on ……..

This proposal might just represent a quantum leap in global trouble-shooting. Does anyone have any better ideas?

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 13 2009 16:07 utc | 70

This Blog has me very confused, which is probably a good thing. - parviz

not only healthy but organic

we are not a church after all

disagreements genuinely fought out make ideas grow

i do not agree with all you say parviz but you bring something unique here

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 13 2009 18:20 utc | 71

Ok I have finally had time to read through the rest of this thread and will therefore make some comments on what Parviz has written in reply to the concerns expressed about allowing neo-liberals into Iran.

firstly let me say that I have become used to peeps mistaking my gender which is of no concern except that they mistake my nym for some personal allusion presumably along the lines of not wanting my supposed given name Deborah shortened to 'Debs' because of some life that the "debs' character lived that has been left behind or some such. However I will explain if only because too few amerikans are aware of fellow amerikans who struggled unsuccessfully to prevent the corrupt and exploitative system they now live within.

My real name is not deborah or debs or anything remotely like that. The nym came from an observation following the 2004 amerikan election that the spirit of socialism in amerika had truly expired. Eugene V Debs was one of this planet's greatest socialists, a man who never sacrificed principle for convenience. Post 2000 and prior to November 2004 I travelled under the nym "Debs in '04" in the hope that amerikans would find a candidate with the character and strength of purpose of Gene Debs but they didn't. The rest is history.

Anyway Iran. I realise that for Parviz along with many other Iranians, virtually anything which will rid Iran of the rule of the mullahs seems preferable to the present oligarchy, but as others have pointed out most likely all that would happen is that the current mob of tyrants would swap qaba for three piece suits, then get back to their theft, except now there truly would be no hope.

A lot of what Parviz writes appears to suggest that Iranians are intrinsically different from other humans especially those who populate the ME, I cannot agree after spending a large chunk of my life travelling through a gamut of diverse cultures I have come to the conclusion that under all the outer artifice humans are the same wherever you go. They are motivated by the same needs, close to those outlined in Maslow's hierarchy.

When the greedheads from central grasping show up in Tehran, they will have the knowledge and skill-sets to play the Iranian people like a well tuned violin. Parviz points out that Iranians have more money than many of the other nations which have been suborned by neo-liberalism. Unless they have more assets than the total combined assets of all the nations already part of the neo-liberal conglomeration they will surely lose in any head to head confrontation. I will try to explain.

The thing that the neo-lib model most loosely represents is a modern corporatised casino. The rules are set by the house for the house's benefit and players must play within those rules or else the casino will not accept the wager.

Back in the 80's in London there will a number of casinos founded as private clubs owned by a 'bank' of reasonably wealthy patrons. They took most wagers and had plenty of custom because their 'house rules' were set to allow larger maximum bets than any MGM owned chintzy plastic gambling factory.
Most gamblers are 'losers' in the most derogatory sense of that awful concept. That was the type of player these London clubs were familiar with.

Rupert Murdoch was far from Australia's only media magnate, the Packer family were much wealthier and had committed many more foul deeds back in the day than Murdoch has yet. In fact it was the desire to overtake the Packers and the Fairfaxes (another Oz media oligarchy) that set young Rupert on the path to world domination.

Kerry Packer was the man who destroyed traditional cricket and turned it into a mass entertainment and as such he would spend a lot of time in london where the HQ of the International Cricket Council (ICC) was located. A keen punter, Packer had discovered the London gambling clubs and decided he wanted to own them. He went into the biggest clubs and gambled extravagantly losing several million pounds in two of them over the space of a few nights. The clubs laughed at the silly colonial and splashed his losses, and their triumphs in the media.
Packer played the gracious loser to the hilt but underneath it his abacus like heart was busy. He knew something which the casino owners had either forgotten or never run into. That is the bloke with the most money will always win a gambling contest eventually.

Since Packer had already lost so much the casinos couldn't reasonably refuse his bets no matter how large. Even back in the 80's Packer was a billionaire several times over and the chinless youngest sons of in-bred aristos had no chance of beating him in the game of who has the thickest wallet.

Packer just kept gambling, doubling his stake whenever he lost until the casinos owed him more than the backers were worth. Then he accepted their ownership as payment, within a month he owned the casinos he wanted. Bored he went back to Oz and pulled the same stunt on the corporatised but badly under capitalised casinos of the Federal Hotels group.

This is the situation Iran faces and I don't believe that even the craftiest player could parley Iran's position into a winners hand. The house (the amerikan empire) will just keep coming back at Iran until the house wins. Then it will change the rules to prevent Iran winning it's stake back. Just like everywhere else. Except China. China was different for two reasons firstly with a population of more than a billion humans, China had a bigger, if unrealised, stake than any other individual nation amerika included.
Secondly and most importantly China had other choices, the amerikan empire wasn't the only game in town back then. The soviet empire was a viable alternative and more importantly China was large enough to be economically self sufficient if required.
Kissinger and Nixon knew that they needed China more than China needed them and that this situation wasn't going to improve it would get worse, so China made a deal whereby it could set its own rules. No other nation has ever copped that and Iran hasn't a hope of that deal, especially if amerika can access Iraqi oil.

There is no alternative to the amerikian empire at present and those who steer the empire are well aware of how desperately Iran's urbanites and opinion leaders want to get outta blockades and into the club.
The best that Iran can hope for is a prez who scares the amerikan/israeli/eu conglomerate as much as Ahmadinejad, but who understands that major domestic reforms have to be instituted by Iranians without outside assistance or interference. Such a leader would need a huge amount of support from the citizens because he/she would have two formidable opponents, the amerikan shit stirrers, and the mullahs with their powerful families.

But a leader like that could provide the basis for a viable non-aligned bloc. Plenty of other nations want to be part of an alternative to the amerikan empire, which is why amerika is so desperate and ruthless when it comes to preventing such a formation. Then the game could be played with honest rules.
Parviz it is fair enough that you and other Iranians resent being the country which copped the short straw. Iran is the last nation with enough for the empire to covet and sufficient power to go it alone if necessary, but don't confuse the ability to 'go it alone' with the ability to join then beat the house at its own game. You are correct, no-one on the outside has the right to demand Iran resist, but the other side of that coin must be that all Iranians are made aware of what the reality of joining the club will really mean for them and their ancient civilisation.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 14 2009 2:13 utc | 72

Debs, your comments are fascinating. You've given me much food for thought, which means that I'll respond if and when I manage to digest your account of the geopolitical equation.

And, last but not least, thanks for taking the trouble to provide such a thoughtful and comprehensive opinion.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 5:32 utc | 73

b, you asked me about potential candidate Moussavi (Musavi). Since I didn't know much about him (I was outside Iran during his entire premiership, and he has been the subject of little discussion in Iran) I asked around and got general agreement on the following, some of it surprising:

When Khamenei became President he made a generally well known statement that Moussavi would become Prime Minister more or less over his dead body. But Khomeini forced Khamenei to appoint him P.M. and he held the country together well during the 8 year war with Iraq. He was generally appreciated as a no-nonsense, uncorrupt politician who spoke his mind often and loudly. The fact that he is related to Khamenei is neutralized by Khamenei's personal dislike of him. (P.S., the post of Prime Minister was scrapped and is now replaced by the President, with the old President now elevated to Spiritual Leader).

Moussavi is highly educated (an architect) and his wife, who wore mini-skirts pre-Revolution, is heavily involved in the Iranian art scene as well as being Iran's No. 1. feminist who constantly defends women's rights.

Moussavi's problem is that he has been completely out of the limelight for 20 years (undoubtedly because of his differences with Khamenei) and in 1997 and 2001 ceded the presidential candidacy to Khatemi (and may do so again). But he would be a formidable candidate against Ahmadinejad because the population (including crucially the IRGC and Baseej) appreciate his service to the nation in its time of dire need.

As for his economic principles, during his tenure as P.M. he nationalized everything! So he's probably less free-market than Khatemi would be, especially as laissez-faire capitalism has recently been dealt a heavy blow.

I can do more research if you wish.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 14:34 utc | 74

Thanks Parviz - Moussavi seems to be an interesting guy. Probably better in holding up against the U.S. during negotiations.

As for his economic principles, during his tenure as P.M. he nationalized everything! So he's probably less free-market than Khatemi would be, especially as laissez-faire capitalism has recently been dealt a heavy blow.

Maybe the nationalizations were because of the ongoing war? It was typical for all WWII countries to at least have a very heavy hand in the economy because the war needs.

For the next 50 years laissez-faire capitalism is dead.

Posted by: b | Feb 14 2009 16:27 utc | 75

Iran is only partially reaping the benefits of having been isolated for so long & having to home-grow a lot of its technologies but it will in time.

hence ironically, sanctions have positioned Iran well for the future. Like most other countries including the USA, Iran will need an effective industrial-policy & also well-targeted & well-timed doses of protectionism to support its internal economy.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Feb 14 2009 18:51 utc | 76

Parviz' insights into Iranian Politics and Society are indeed valuable, but when attempting to make judgements about matters for which you do not have the luxury of direct observation, it's wise to tap as many perspectives as possible. I ran across the following not too long ago, and it gives an insightful look into Iranian Politics and Society, and much of the perspective comes from a broad cross section of Iranians just like Parviz. One gets the feeling that Iran is not so different from us, as the propagandistic ass clowns in the MSM want us to believe. But I will go a step further and say that's not necessarily a good thing. Iran appears to be as enigmatic and contradictory a society as the U.S., and class warfare is as prominent there, as it is in the States. That's not a hopeful prognosis, regardless of the U.S. intentions towards Iran.>Rageh Inside Iran

Posted by: Obamageddon | Feb 14 2009 18:53 utc | 77

Obamageddon, regarding negative propaganda, my wife and I have been astonished to note the number of mainstream T.V. channels recently flooding the airwaves with sympathetic portrayals of Iran: CNN is onto the act, BBC has several hours of programming each week: One series concerns the Shah's mistakes, another is cultural -- I just finished watching a one-hour programme about Esfahan that presented not just a cultural but a human perspective on Iranians, for example highlighting the 13 churches and Jewish synagogues in Esfahan alone and emphasizing the religious tolerance that exists in no other Persian Gulf nation or state.

The BBC took pains to emphasize that just as Cyrus the Great freed the Jews in Babylon, so too did Shah Abbas save the Armenians from a Turkish Holocaust centuries earlier and give them safe haven in Esfahan.

My point is that the world is being 'softened up' for a rapprochement. All these simultaneous programmes cannot be by mere coincidence. Even the CIA's own VOA-Persian is softening its stance (ever so gradually!).

I disagree completely with what you have apprently read about class warfare. It doesn't exist today. The Islamic Revolution wasn't a Bastille-type affair but a coup d'etat. Even today, those driving expensive luxury cars are more likely to be the children of rich bazaaris and children of the former disenfranchised, rather than engineers or technocrats. In the luxurious north of Tehran semi-literate people who have 'made it' live in the same neighbourhoods as diplomats and foreign-educated doctors. The division is between Haves and Have-Nots, not between classes which really don't exist any more, at least not economically.

Jony_be_cool, I agree, sanctions have made Iran strong and a focussed approach by a new president will make it even stronger.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 19:31 utc | 78

Parviz, in my unconventional view, the haves and have nots is class, and one cannot have without taking from those who have not. In that sense, that "taking" is a kind of metaphorical warfare, whether the various actors are conscious of it, or not.

The documentary I viewed, to me, at least, was neither sympathetic nor unsympathetic. It offered a glimpse of Irananian life the MSM in the U.S. rarely portrays in such depth. It made me realize that Iran, like the U.S. and all other so-called "advanced" societies, are on a path that can only lead to destruction. Regardless of whether, or not, they destroy each other, they will no doubt implode from the weight and gravity of their own excesses.

Posted by: Obamageddon | Feb 14 2009 19:51 utc | 79

O.K., Debs (72), it's your turn:

What you're saying (4th paragraph) is that the Mullahs should remain in power because you 'assume' that whoever replaces them will be even worse. That's an enormous assumption that condemns Iran to years of continuing religious tyranny. Already the relentless brain drain (200,000 of our best students each year) are radically altering our nation's DNA (I kid you not) as the most intelligent youngsters leave this police state out of sheer desperation. Who remains? The least intelligent, the least capable, the least adventurous, in summary, the weakest.

Your casino analogy is very interesting and I take your point. But you have no idea, not a clue, how 'resistant' Iran will be to a complete take-over. Reza Shah overthrew the corrupt Qajar dynasty in 1925 and began nation-building with the support of the West that had no chopice oterthan tomsupport him. Mossadegh rebelled against imperial exploitation in 1951 and it took the entire might of Imperial Britain and the Imperial U.S. TWO ENTIRE YEARS (sorry for shouting but I'm trying to make an important point) to turn the people against a genuine nationalist, even though the people were starving as a rsult of the oil embargo. The Brits/U.S. actually failed to trigger a genuine uprising and so had to execute a military coup at a time when Iran was penniless and it should have been easy. Later (1979) the Mullahs rid Iran of U.S. domination in the blink of an eye. Centuries ago the Arabs, Alexander, the Moguls and many others inflicted temporary defeats on Persia but Persia retained its independence and its core became stronger than before.

Here is why Iran, today, might just possess more chips than the casino bank:

-- The Europeans are champing at the bit, desperate to secure Iran's natural gas and LNG. Contracts have already been signed with Austria and Germany, and even with the Swiss who scorned U.S. threats to replace Switzerland as the protector of U.S. interests in hostile countries! The Europeans, without exception, are just waiting for the starting gun to invest billions more in Iran. It is Iran that has become the predator and is playing the mightier countries off against each other;

-- Iran has already established 3 bank branches in Baghdad and Najaf, plus many more foreign exchange outlets. Rapprochement will again open up the floodgates for 2-way trade, especially in oil exports and petrochemicals (many of which were transacted in the hundreds of millions even at the height of the civil war in 2007);

-- Iran is already recognized as the only nation, ironically non-Arab to wit, that stood up to Israel and gave the Palestinian and Lebanese resistances concrete assistance and training. This already makes Iran a hero to many Arab and Muslim peoples, even if not popular with their dictators. So Iranian 'leadership' has been earned and will only increase if it seen to be leading the way in bringing peace to Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan;

-- I can't see Russia sacrificing Iran for America. Russians hate the U.S. for its clear military encirclement and stationing of missiles on its borders. If anything, Russia is going to try and grab a huge piece of the Iranian cake in S. Pars and elsewhere via Gazprom, but on a competitive basis, not in the way Iraq awarded its contracts. Russia has rejected all entreaties re Bushehr and is supplying nuclear fuel that should get Iran's first nuclear reactor up and running within a year. Russia has also sold sophisticated anti-missile radar to Iran despite fierce protests by Israel and the U.S..

-- Don't overestimate the gravity of Iran's economic situation. The regime has hundreds of billions of Dollars squirrelled abroad. I can't write more in this email. Iran has been in a far worse economic situations during the past 30 years and nothing happened. The U.S. is the one suffering economically far more than Iran and therefore has the chips stacked against it (to continue your casino analogy).

Anyway, time alone will tell who wins and loses, but I wouldn't write Iran off just yet as the hapless and helpless victim of The Great Game.

"But a leader like that could provide the basis for a viable non-aligned bloc. Plenty of other nations want to be part of an alternative to the amerikan empire, which is why amerika is so desperate and ruthless when it comes to preventing such a formation."

Debs is dead right (Excuse the pun). I never claimed it would be easy, but I sure as Hell would love to see a non-aligned counterweight to the traditional imperialists, and Iran might just be the one nation able to pull it off "against the odds"!

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 20:09 utc | 80


the islamic revolution was not a cou d'état in any sense of that word

the shah, this foolish & vain king of kings, was a mere instrument of us imperialism - even when he was irritating them. parviz, you cannot rewrite history. the shah may have brought modernity but he also brought systematic control & torture. he was without question one of the most venal tyrants of the last century

in fact, the islamic revolution was very similar to the french revolution . it must have seemed to the nationalist & left forces that it was a game won but they sorely underestimated the clergy & its supporters. the revolution was within its grasp but because they were not sufficiently organised nor sufficiently ruthless - conservative islam was able to conquer the country & a large majority of its people

brutal as the islamic revolution was it was in no way comparable to the constant & brutal treatment of dissidents under the shah

i have little sympathy for political islam becaue it represents a reactionry tendency, a conservative worldview & in the end is happy to do deals withe elites of empire but there exists the reality that political islam replaced panarabism in part because the indivuals & formations were systematically murdered & thos formations subverted & destroyed. paanarabism also became too connected with the corruption of elites

& it is correct to suggest that iranians regard the arab people from a certain hauteur - it is only recently that we have seen real links between arab people & their struggles & iran

i have many iranian comrades here who have lived in europe, mostly italy for a long long time - they were exiles under the shah & remain so today & they are mostly from the left but are not in any way like the mek - they regard them like a sect & a tool of imperialism

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 14 2009 20:13 utc | 81

Obamageddon, your apocalyptic view may be right, but I'm not sure I would really want to live in the 18th century, without pencillin, without clean water, but with smallpox and other hitherto non-treatable diseases.

How do we improve the lives of the disenfranchised without massive investment and know-how? For some nations it's clearly a lose-lose situation, but I believe Iran could become a success story.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 20:13 utc | 82

Whoa there, r'giap, when and where have I ever praised Mohammad Reza Shah whom I have always held responsible for the mess we're in today? Please re-produce any statement of mine in support of the last Shah and I'll eat crow immediately.

Secondly, yes, it WAS a coup.I was wandering around Tehran for 2 years after the Revolution wearing a suit and tie (before I finally got fed up and emigrated), and people scarcely bothered to look. In social revolutions people with clean fingernails or from other tribes/areas are executed on the spot, most recently in Cambodia, and permanently in Africa. In Iran none of this happened. It was purely and simply various groups trying to win power and totally unconcerned with the bystanbders, be they rich or poor, educated or illiterate. Nobody was killed unless they took up arms in favour of, or against, one group or another.

What happened is that the Shah was overthrown mainly by Leftist elements I described in earlier posts, and they were in turn thrown into prison as the Mullahs suddenly realized they could have it all. Even the hostage taking was an accident. But at no time was the educated elite imprisoned or otherwise disadvantaged in any way. That is not my definition of a Revolution. One group replaced another without any class warfare whatsoever. Only those super-rich like Elghanian, Sabet and others who were close to the Shah were dispossessed and even in some cases executed because they saw hundreds of people like me still wandering the streets clean-shaven and dressed smartly and thought they too wouldn't be touched.

Sorry, r'giap, but I must insist that the Islamic Revolution was a glorified coup and didn't even remotely resemble a social revolution.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 20:28 utc | 83

r'giap, another thing. The Shah imprisoned, tortured, postured and screwed up big-time, but in terms of sheer cruelty you can't seriously compare him with Khomeini, who executed 200,000 mainly Mujaheddin members simply because his prisons were filled to overflowing, or when the Baseej and IRGC needed blood infusions after Iraq's invasion Khomeini gave direct orders for all prisoners, whether guilty or not, to be summarily executed and their blood emptied into blood banks to support the war effort? His justification was (verbatim): "If they are in prison they must be guilty"!!!

Why do you think Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was placed under house arrest? Precisely for writing a fierce letter of complaint to Khomeini regarding these brutal and arbitrary executions. R'giap, I think it's you who have decided to revise history in many of your statements. You haven't the slightest clue how cruel this regime has been, including serial killings of poets and writers. Just do a search of Amnesty Int'l's website on Iran, or ask other Iranians to comment on my statements, and then I'll happily take note of your own comments.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 20:37 utc | 84

Good night.It's after midnight. More tomorrow.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 14 2009 20:39 utc | 85


i insist it was a popular revolution & you do not have to take my word for it. historians who are not sympathetic to the islamic revolution all call it a 'popular revolution'. that seems a correct desription to me. it involved all classes, all formations. it was a popular revolution against the shah in which the islamic forces took control

& i do insist that broadly under the sha - the system took a great deal more lives. parviz, when you say 200,000 in fact observors including amnesty say it was 8,000. it does a disservice to your arguments to cite numbers that are under the circumstances, fictitious. if you can source that 200,000 i would be very, very surprised.

it is distasteful to argue about blood that is not your own

it is my understanding that grand ayatollah montazeri resigned in the face of these 8,000 because he recognised it for what it was - a perversion of faith, a concentration of power. & let me say it here i have no illussions of how vicious are those who exercise power. as i have stated i have many friends here who are iranian by birth who feel neither sympathetic to the sha or to the islamic revolution but they do not demonise it as you do nor see in the u s imperialism or its 'democratic models' their redemption . i have shared these post with them & they suggest that you were an exile not unlike them, professional - that you have no particular sympathy for the left but see in modernism itself - its own liberation. they for the most part are very far from that point of view

parviz, i think i have a very precise idea about the cruelty of this government - it is not a regime - as i have sd it does damage to your argument to create fictional numbers & quotidian demonisation

parviz, i am a communist for fuck's sake - my natural affinity is with the tudeh party of iran & they suffered greatly for their engagement & i am very very familiar with the liquidation on intellectuals & poets - horrifying as this is along with the assasination of exiles - in the end - to be brutal we are speaking of a couple of hundred people

the numbers i use can easily be sourced at amnest, or even on wikapedia on human rights abuses in iran but there are a number of solid books that i could also suggest

it is clear that you have no sympathy for the shah & i have never suggested otherwise & it is a little ingenuous on your part to suggest i have

we are arguing here - but i will say again that i value your contribution here

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 14 2009 21:47 utc | 86


Figures on deaths are extremely controversial. John Hopkins and Lancet jointly reported 600,000 war-related Iraqi fatalities by 2006 while the U.S. Government claimed 30,000. The 6 million Holocaust figure is highly disputed, but I don't want to go into that because even if 'only' 500,000 Jews were gassed it was still by any definition a 'Holocaust' and a blot on humanity.

I was wrong in stating 200,000 were executed in 1988 and what I had meant to say was that the total number of people killed during and after the Revolution was 200,000. I apologize for the sloppy writing and you were correct to upbraid me for this.

But let's not lose sight of the wood for the trees: The arbitrary execution of 30,000 human beings, including women and children, summarily marched onto the top of Evin prison and executed for no other reason than that Khomeini wanted to clear the prisons, and all of this in a space of just 2 months = at an average rate of between 500 EXECUTIONS PER DAY, was something incomparable to the Shah's crimes during his 25 years on the throne. Khomeini's brutality and barbarity were exemplified by the fact that the grieving parents who went to retrieve the bullet-riddled bodies of their children had to pay for the bullets used to kill them before being handed the bodies for cleansing and proper burial.

Being a self-professed Communist you seem to have some fantasy about the 'good' Islamic Revolution and how it toppled the big, bad capitalist U.S. proxy-Shah. In fact there was nothing 'good' about it. Everyone hated the Shah, even members of his own Royal Court, for about 20 major reasons that I have described in various posts. So as soon as the Left (especially the Fedayeen, followed by the Mujaheddin) opposed him everyone joined on the bandwagon which was then seized in a coup by the Islamic Fundamentalists. It was a development unique to Iran and didn't follow the pattern of other Revolutions where class warfare was not just the result but often the aim.

In fact, the non-class warfare aspect of Iran's Revolution is always held up by us Iranians as a sign of how fundamentally and intrinsically peaceful we are as a nation (Neocon-Zionist propaganda notwithstanding). We don't like shedding human blood, least of all our own, unlike the Arabs and the U.S. who don't bat an eyelid before invading. But Heaven help anyone who attacks us.

So shopkeepers, bankers, intellectuals, the elite and artists were permitted to lead their lives, within the new economic and social parameters, as long as they didn't try to overthrow the Islamic Republic. This doesn't fit historical patterns of 'revolutions' in any way. There is simply no precedent in world history for what happened in Iran. It was far closer to a "popular coup" than to a 'revolution', marked by extraordinary humour among the populace as every class joined hands in marching against the Shah.

Please read every word of the Daily Telegraph report below, because the figures were confirmed by Grand Ayatollah Montazeri who was selected by Khomeini to be his successor until the conscientious Grand Ayatollah spoke out:


Posted by: Parviz | Feb 15 2009 6:51 utc | 87

this report of crimes against humanity under Khomeini must be pursued and every individual party to it, every Mullah or lower, must be brought before justice. Whomever is complicit must state in whose name, man or above man, these crimes against humanity were committed. We shall dare them to tell in whose name such crimes can be committed.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Feb 15 2009 7:48 utc | 88

jony_b_cool, one extreme irony is that U.S. barbarity in the Middle East prevented such crimes from coming to light. If the U.S. had focussed on human rights, as Carter did, instead of trying to overthrow the regime and pursuing a policy of glorified hooliganism in the M.E., the internal pressure on the Islamic regime would have been infinitely greater and would have had a similar effect to Carter's human rights pressure on the Shah. As it turned out, the regime was able to repress dissent "in the interests of national security", rather like the Patriot Act that meant people were "either for us or against us".

Such crimes as described above (and post #87 is but one such example) will only come to light when the "external threat" from the U.S. and Israel disappears and the regime is forced to turn inwards and answer to the people for both its economic and human rights failings.

The U.S. hasn't a clue how much damage it did to the Iranian reformist movement and human rights through its insane Middle East policy.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 15 2009 8:04 utc | 89

@Parviz - @87

Sorry, but taking a Telegraph piece on Iran as proof for anything is ludicrous, especially as it quotes MEK representatives who might well be the "sources" of that "privately published book."

Search for Con Coughlin for a few examples of the Telegraph's "quality".

And the "made the parents pay for the bullets that killed their children" is an old hoax that is usually used by the "west" with regard to the Chinese under Mao.

Posted by: b | Feb 15 2009 9:31 utc | 90

Thanks to everyone for the excellent discussion.

I am without a doubt the least well read and least world traveled person who comments here at MOA. I know little first hand about Iran and its political situation. But one does not need to know a lot to cut Parviz's argument of possible U.S./Iran economic/political cooperation off at the knees. Let me just list for clarity one man's name: Rahm Emanuel

Posted by: Rick | Feb 15 2009 11:53 utc | 91

b, O.K., if you don't believe the Telegraph, how about numerous witnesses (including myself) who actually heard shots ringing out every night, and often at frequent intervals, from Evin prison, even before Khomeini's decision to 'clear' the prisons?

I suppose that was just target practice, as was the slaughter in 1988 where thousand of prisoners just happened to get in the way of those taking target practice ......

We'll just have to mutually agree to differ.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 15 2009 13:24 utc | 92

@Parviz - I do not doubt what your witnessed. I doubt the Telegraph's accounts on such issues. It is a propaganda rag. We are not likely to disagree much on most issues :-)

@Obamageddon - @77 - interesting movie - recommended.

Posted by: b | Feb 15 2009 13:36 utc | 93

Rick (91), the U.S. needs Iran more than vice versa, so it wouldn't surprise me if the U.S. solves 'the Israeli problem' which would be part and parcel of a Grand (economic and political) Bargain.

If you think Rahm Emanuel can prevent what is essential to stop the U.S. bleeding in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, then I'm prepared to designate Rahm Emanuel as 'Superman' and, in which case, good luck to him! I shall personally doff my hat to him because he will have worked a miracle, even with the Israel Lobby behind him.

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 15 2009 13:38 utc | 94

i wouldnt trust the telegraph - not even on the weather - as b pointed out it is a rag - hardly worth the paper it is printed on

i still think you have the numbers wrong - i neither doubt it was bloody - not that repression that has followed was harldly a dinner party

neither i or b is saying the massacres took place but we are extremely cautious with the numbers

the models of lancet & jphn hopkins have been repeated - & scientifically they are dependable numbers - the one offered by the u s is simply made up by someone unaware of maths at the state dept

but today when the 'liberal democratic' model has been well understood to be a myth - i find it peculiar that people find it attractive

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 15 2009 15:22 utc | 95

Parvis #94:

"The US needs Iran more than vice versa...".
Silly me, I thought we were discussing the possible economic benefits to the people of Iran/US. If you are discussing the benefits to the few elite who pull the strings, then my interest in this whole discussion approaches zero. Yet, even discussing the government apart from the people, the most the US leaders "need" Iran for is basically of a perceived bogey-man to Israel's delight. In my opinion, the US government doesn't "need" to be involved in wars in the Middle East so what real "need" are you talking about? If you are talking about the economic benefits to the people of either nation from the results of a legitimate election in Iran, I surely don't see this great "need" that the American people have for trade with Iran. Maybe you know the American people as a group better than I, but I doubt many of my neighbors will be rushing to Wal-Mart to catch the latest "blue-light" special on Persian rugs. In your writings, you often repeat the theme that America needs Iran more than Iran needs America. How about getting off your high horse?

"If you think Rahm Emanuel can prevent what is essential to stop the US bleeding in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, then I'm prepared to designate Rahm Emanuel as 'Superman' and, in which case, good luck to him!"
I never stated what Rahm Emanuel can or cannot do, but I think we both realize where his allegiance lies. Again, I thought we were discussing the benefits to the people of Iran and America regarding what leaders may or may not be elected, especially in regard to economic cooperation with the US. Full economic ties with the US involves non-government foreign trade between private entities (that is, individuals/corporations).

Posted by: Rick | Feb 15 2009 17:23 utc | 96

Fascinating discussion. I don't have time to comment today, but this is MOA at its best: Yes, the discussion is heated, but the tone is respectful and while sparks are flying, evidence is the hammer that is forging a greater understanding and throwing off those sparks.

Rick is right that it is imperative when discussing "Iran" or the "US" to distinguish between government policy and the people's needs -- as the two are often diametrically opposed. Otherwise, everything becomes gobbely-gook.

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 15 2009 18:38 utc | 97

public support is a factor too. Its doubtful that 70% of the USA population would have supported the invasion of Iraq if it did'nt have oil.

for instance, it would be have been very difficult to get public support for an invasion of Bangladesh to remove a government whose neighbors admitted was not a threat.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Feb 15 2009 20:29 utc | 98

Rick (96), don't blame me if the discussions digressed from the thread topic. I merely explained, as requested by b, the economic ramifications of a Khatemi victory based on his achievements in the past (which I doubt many people were aware of). I was then upbraided by Debs, and warned by Lysander, Slothrop and others, for advocating FDI and ignoring all the evils that go with it (summarized succinctly by Andrew in #52). Malooga warned also of "the hidden traps and pitfalls".

I replied continually that I'm only arguing the short-term benefits of foreign investment as Iran needs 8 % growth just to keep unemployment from increasing above its already horrendous level. I summarized my frustration in the opening para of post #67:

"Great post, Swedish. I think the reason for the differences of opinion between Debs and myself (I'm, generally speaking, not in her league) is that Debs describes what 'should' be and I describe what the best is that Iranians can hope for in the current circumstances, a point which you reiterated in your own post.

Debs explained 'his' view in more detail so it transformed from a discussion of micro-economics into a discussion on the socio-economic-political pitfalls of capitalism in general, which I admit took me by surprise and put me on the defensive for most of the debate. Where I believe I may have scored a few brownie points was in pointing out how much countries like Brazil and even Muslim Turkey have benefited from FDI, and how vast FDI in China made it stronger than the nations investing in it, i.,e., the 'capitalist prey' became the hunter.

Whether Iran can be as clever as China remains to be seen, andthis triggered a new debate on how potentially strong Iran really is!

This then developed into a debate with r'giap as to whether the Islamic Republic resulted from a 'revolution' or a 'coup d'état'!!! .... and then a debate into which regime (the Shah or Mullahs) did the most torturing!!!

Rick then tells me to get off my high horse for claiming the U.S. needs Iran more than Iran needs the U.S., while another (David #58) concedes this point.

So, yes, Malooga, spirited discussion indeed. It's been a sobering experience for me, like playing 3-dimensional chess simultaneously with several Grand Masters! I enjoyed it, even if I made a fool of myself occasionally (quoting the Telegraph, which I sware never to mention again except in derision!).

I'm glad this thread triggered such interest, even if I did most the talking (My Mum used to say that "empty vessels make the most noise", but I hope the vessel wasn't completely empty).

Posted by: Parviz | Feb 15 2009 21:53 utc | 99


on the contrary, you have brought a great deal here & we are not here in any case to find false communalities but to flesh things out for one another & ourselves

consensus seem appropriate only to the corrupt

we should delight in our differences - it deepens our dialogue

so, thank you

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Feb 15 2009 22:12 utc | 100

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