Iran Democracy Monitor No. 18, August 2, 2006


Editor: Ilan Berman

Some Signs of Economic Weakness

Is Iran in more economic difficulty than commonly understood? According to Kamal Danyeshyar, the chairman of the Energy committee of Iran’s majles, the government is lobbying the parliament for economic relief to “make up for the shortfall in subsidies for importing petrol.” The government petition comes in the form of a bill, to be submitted to the majles in coming days, that requests some $4 billion be withdrawn from the regime’s hard currency reserves in order to make up for the skyrocketing costs of gasoline. But the move also provides an important indicator of the regime’s economic priorities. Despite talk of an end to foreign gas imports beginning this Fall, it now appears that “no major changes will be introduced regarding petrol in the current year,” says Danyeshyar. (Tehran Aftab-e Yazd, July 23, 2006)

A Central Asian Charm Offensive

Tehran is continuing to expand its diplomatic outreach to the “post-Soviet space.” In late July, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embarked upon a four-day tour of Central Asia. Ahmadinejad’s first stop was Turkmenistan, where he held meetings with Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov and secured a major strategic prize: an agreement from Ashgabat not to allow its territory to be used for attacks against Iran. Subsequently, the Iranian president traveled to Tajikistan, where he and Tajik president Emomali Rahmonov inaugurated the Anzob tunnel, an Iranian-funded project situated on the highway linking Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, to the northern Iranian city of Khojand. The two leaders also reportedly discussed the establishment of a joint Persian-language television station which would broadcast into both countries. (Moscow Itar-TASS, July 26, 2006; Bishkek Times of Central Asia, July 28, 2006)

Gaming The Iranian Nuclear Crisis

Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament is wading into the public debate over the Islamic Republic’s escalating nuclear stand-off with the West. Mohsen Koohkan-rizi, the spokesman for the majles leadership, recently told the reformist daily Rooz that the country’s parliamentary leadership believes that the U.S. and its allies are hopelessly deadlocked over how to deal with Tehran’s atomic efforts. “Since the time we have ended our suspension, the West would initially say something and then retreat from its position,” explains the majles spokesman. Koohkan-rizi’s conclusion? “While some believe that eventually China, Russia, the United States and Europe would reach a consensus on Iran’s nuclear issue, we do not think so.” (Tehran Rooz, August 1, 2006)

A Compatriot in Caracas

The strategic partnership between Iran and Venezuela has just gotten a bit stronger. In late July, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez traveled to Tehran on a very public state visit. During his stay, Chavez was feted by top Iranian officials, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who formally presented him with the regime’s highest honor, the Islamic Republic Medal, for his defense of “the interests of his and other Latin American countries” against “imperialism” – a thinly-veiled reference to the United States. Chavez, in turn, made no secret of his vision for the Tehran-Caracas partnership. “Let’s save the human race, let’s finish off the U.S. empire,” Chavez is reported as having told Iranian leaders. (Associated Press, July 30, 2006)

Purifying Persian

The government of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has set its sights on a new target in its ongoing clampdown on Western influence in the Islamic Republic. A new presidential decree, issued by Ahmadinejad at the end of July, bans all government agencies and publications from using foreign words. In lieu of popular terms such as “pizza” and “chat,” official media and functionaries will now need to use modified Persian terms deemed “more appropriate” by the regime’s official linguistic watchdog, the Farhangestan Zaban e Farsi. In all, more than 2,000 Western and popular words will be stricken from the official Iranian lexicon as part of the measure. (Reuters, July 29, 2006; Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2006)

Copyright (c) 2006, American Foreign Policy Council

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.