Sleepless in Tehran

[New York Times] Thomas L. Friedman - Under Ahmadinejad, Iran's mullahs have gone on a domestic subsidy binge - using oil money to cushion the prices of food, gasoline, mortgages and to create jobs - to buy off the Iranian people. Iran today has 30% inflation, 11% unemployment and huge underemployment with thousands of young college grads, engineers and architects selling pizzas and driving taxis. Now with oil prices falling, Iran is going to have to pull back spending across the board. High oil prices had minimized UN sanctions; collapsing oil prices will now magnify those sanctions. That is a good thing because Iran also funds Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria, and the anti-U.S. Shiites in Iraq. Iran is ripe for deflating. Its power was inflated by the price of oil and the popularity of its leader, who was cheered simply because he was willing to poke America with a stick. But as a real nation-building enterprise, the Islamic Revolution in Iran has been an abject failure. "When you ask young Arabs which leaders in the region they most admire," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, they will usually answer the leaders of Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran. "When you ask them where in the Middle East would you most like to live, the answer is usually socially open places like Dubai or Beirut. The Islamic Republic of Iran is never in the top 10."

2008-10-29 01:00:00

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