The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Iranians’ War for Bread

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Iran’s presidential election is only three days away, and the nuclear program remains foremost in the minds of outside observers and in the statements of the seven remaining candidates. But as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to step down, it’s worth taking a closer look at Iran’s deteriorating economy. The FT‘s reporter spoke with Masoumeh, a 47-year old woman in a northwestern farming community near Borujerd:

As well as being adversely affected by drought, her province of Lorestan, one of the poorest in Iran, has the country’s highest unemployment rate at 20.6 per cent – compared to 11.2 per cent nationally.

“A 10kg bag of rice was 25,000 tomans [250,000 rials, $20] last year, but it is 50,000 tomans this year. [Red] meat was 12,000 tomans per kilo, but it is 30,000 tomans now,” she said. “Our life is much more difficult compared to one year ago and we eat far less food.”

Masoumeh…hoped that whoever won would continue the monthly cash payments that each Iranian can receive in compensation for reductions in subsidies on energy and basic commodities.

Another Borujerd resident, Behzad, a truck driver, told the FT: “My nightmare is that my family may soon begin to starve…Now it feels like we are fighting a war but this is a war for bread.”

What’s most notable in the report is that Iranians don’t seem to blame the country’s nuclear program and the economic sanctions it has incurred—despite 32.2 percent inflation (many believe it to be much higher than this official number), a more than 50 percent drop in the rial’s value, and a 22 percent increase in the number of people living below the poverty line since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. Two of the men interviewed by the FT who do blame the regime for their lot cited not sanctions but “corruption by those who have connections to the political and religious elite.”

Iran’s dismal economy doesn’t appear to be creating the hoped-for fissures between the afflicted people and their regime. The US imposed sanctions partly in the hope that Iranians would eventually demand that their regime abandon its nuclear program for the sake of their own well-being. Yet reports and opinion polls suggest that widespread public support for the nuclear program remains, even as many Iranians continue to suffer.

[Image of poor man in Esfahan, Iran courtesy of Shutterstock]

Published on June 11, 2013 5:00 pm
  • BobSykes

    They’re doing it to themselves. There are no victims on Earth.

  • ljgude

    I have been aware that the Iranian people support the regime on the issue of getting nukes. What I have to wonder is why they don’t see that all the threats to use them might just be the cause of the sanctions. Then again they may well live in a bubble where they really believe all their problems are simply caused by the US and Israel. I guess if I had to get up and chant about the mullahs of Iran being Satin’s spawn every week I might start to believe that too. I can’t help but remember how sanctions didn’t deter Saddam and that his people did most of the suffering. It looks like the Iranian people are going to go on suffering and that their government is going to get their nukes. I’m sure it is all going to be worth it too.