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Money Trouble in Tehran—But Will It Bring the Mullahs to Heel?

Iran’s currency is in massive flux. Fighting erupted on Wednesday when police tried to evict black market money changers near Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. Hundreds of shopkeepers joined the protests. Yesterday many shops in the Bazaar remained closed. Police have clamped down in the city today. The NYT has the story:

In the Iranian capital, all anyone can talk about is the rial, and how lives have been turned upside down in one terrible week. Every elevator ride, office visit or quick run to the supermarket brings new gossip about the currency’s drop and a swirl of speculation about who is to blame.

“Better buy now,” one rice seller advised Abbas Sharabi, a retired factory guard, who had decided to buy 900 pounds of Iran’s most basic staple in order to feed his extended family for a year.

“As I was gathering my money, the man received a phone call,” said Mr. Sharabi, smoking cigarette after cigarette on Thursday while waiting for a bus. “When he hung up he told me prices had just gone up by 10 percent. Of course I paid. God knows how much it will cost tomorrow.”

This article leaves many of the most important questions unanswered. The Iranian upper middle class, the kind of people who send their kids to overseas universities, never liked Ahmadinejad or the mullahs in the first place.

The question that preoccupies the mullahs isn’t whether the Westernized liberal upper middle class is unhappy; of course they are. The question is what the rest of the people are thinking. To some degree the unhappiness of enlightened Tehran is a result of the government’s decision to use its resources to subsidize consumption by the poor.

Are the poor getting restless? It was a coalition between the bazaaris and the street that helped drive the Iranian Revolution. It would take something similar to scare the mullahs into reconsidering their basic approach to the U.S.

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