Iran elections underscore split between leaders, middle class
Washington Post / Thomas Erdbrink
25-Feb-2012 (3 comments)

after years of frustration in their quest for more personal liberties, better relations with the West and adherence to the rule of law, many members of the ignored middle class are considered more likely to stay home........

For these middle-class Iranians, Facebook, satellite television and secret parties — all illegal in Iran — have combined with occasional foreign trips to create a separate reality where state ideology is ignored as much as possible and elections make no difference.....

“In my world, the currency has lost its value, our oil is under sanctions, we are weak, and I feel humiliated,” said Amir, 28, a watch seller who did not want to be further identified for fear of retribution. “But in their world, the country is strong, the economy is booming, and our future is glorious. We are on different planets.”..............

He added, “Voting will not change that, the past has proven.”


The greatest "con job" in Iranian history

by FG on

Massive alienation of the middle class is a prime example of why the IRI cannot hope to keep the regime in power while at the same time becoming the economic and military power it wants to be.  It is impossible to develop and maintain a modern economy required for a strong military if a regime crushes or drives away its middle class.

How could medieval kings could ever have become powerful enough to consolidate their own power and unify their nations if they had lacked the economic base that class created?  Modern European nations would not exist along with all creative intellectual, artistic, political and economic progress they introduced.  The whole world would be immensely different and poorer.  Is is self-evident that closed, traditional societies don't produce much progress after an initial spurt followed by cultural arteriosclerous.

When a middle class appears and plays such a productive role it will inevitably insist, sooner or later, on a say in government proportional to its contribution to society.  External "contamination" or agents is NEVER required to make it want such things.  Where would such "agents of sedition" have come from in the 1400s and later?  Where was the counterpart to today's West?

If the middle class to acquire such power, someone else had to give it up: The non-productive (clergy) and the formerly useful nobility (an aristocracy by birth whose only valuable social function--providing protection--now was usurped by kings).   If anything, the latter's medieval fees, levies and privileges now hindered the growing middle class and by doing so, the economy as well.  

Iran is undergoing a similar natural process which, unlike medieval Europe is hindered by two thingS:  the off-cited "curse of oil" and the terrible backfire consequences of the US embassy siege. Iranians were tricked into handed over their nation lock, stock and barrel, to trusted "holy men" on the ludicrous assumption that just because the clerics claimed to represent God (Allah) they'd would behave differently than other rulers given the same immense power.  If you want to be rich, start a religion.  Iran has been the victim of the greatest con job in Iranian history.

As genuine clerics were arrested (Montezeri) or murdered (Khomeini's son) for condeming authoritarian tendencies, Lord Action's old adage--"Power Corrupts and Absolute Power corrupts absolutely"--proved its accuracy once again.  Being "holy" did not prevent the Borgia-like Khamenei from  being every bit as as corrupt, scheming and murderous as Assad, Khaddafi, Milosevic, Hitler and Stalin. Oil makes it possible for a tiny and privileged group to monopolize power unless such revenues run  out are somehow cut off (the value of oil embargo to the degree nations can be pressured to honor it).  Power is concentrated in the hands of those who do nothing to produce wealth and everything to stifle it: worse-than-useless clerics (a la murderous Mojtaba Khamenei who enjoys a his stolen $2 billion) and their well-enriched bodyguard classc, tantamount to the feudal aristocracy. 

Oil has done for Iran what New World gold did for early Spain: Making it a "player," even if second rate, while at the same time encouraging a bleak future down the road.  In Spain, gold and the inflation it caused discouraged a middle class from developing, unlike elsewhere. The central consequence was that Spain was left as an economic backwater from about 15888 until the end of Franco's regime well after World War II.  Once weaker neighbors, forced to develop a middle class of neighbors becaus they had no New World gold, now became the Big Time Players.  

My most recent blog at describes why the regime's overarching goal (political surviva)  undermines so many other policy goals, domestic and foreign.   



Interesting non-election developments

by FG on

From Mehr

Mehr argues that the Government's "parallel action" on the Iranian currency is endangering the Central Bank's policies. The website adds that currency secrets should not be given to lower-ranking officials in the Government. 




At Mehr's cite, you can also read about the Revolution Guard's "arrest" of five BBC "agents" (i.e., bloggers)  who are then charged with "organized crimes."  You can also se their photos.  

COMMENT: The story raises interesting questions, such as "I knew the CIA had agents but since when does the BBC have them?"  and "Why is reporting news or comment to the BBC a crime, since it isn't under normal government?" and "What does it have to do with 'organized crime' being an individual activity?" or "What kind of government allows its military to arrest citizens for reporting news or commenting on perceived misbehavior?"

From Reuthers: 

 SWIFT, the world's biggest electronic banking system, is ready to block Iran's Central Bank from transferring funds, according to a US congressional aide who was at a briefing by the Belgium-based group earlier this week.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication had said last week that it was likely to cut off Tehran to comply with European Union and US sanctions.

Expelling the Central Bank, which acts as the clearinghouse for Tehran's oil revenues, would halt Iran's most powerful vehicle to move funds electronically.


From Bloomberg Weekly

 Chinese and Japanese groups insuring Iranian ships against risks such as oil spills are being limited by European Union sanctions.

Because the Japan Ship Owners’ Mutual Protection & Indemnity Association and the China Shipowners Mutual Assurance Association are reinsured through the London-based International Group of P&I Clubs, they are indirectly affected by EU sanctions approved on 23 January. The two groups are the largest insurers for ships in their respective countries, the two biggest importers of Iranian oil.

“The question now is, will the Chinese and Japanese governments get involved and subsidize insurance or guarantee insurance,” Mike Roderick, a partner at international trade law firm Clyde & Co. in London, said. “It’s more difficult for Japan because of its ties to the U.S. But China might.”

The EU ban on the purchase, transportation, financing, and insurance of Iranian oil affects Asian importers because 95% of the world’s tankers are insured by the 13 members of the International Group. Even if Beijing says publicly that it will not reduce imports, the EU sanctions make fewer ships available to load the cargoes from Iran.


 From Tabnak

In rankings for Internet speed, Iran is 155nd out of 172 countries

Comment: Anothet prime example of how the regime's prime goal--survival--crushes everything else, including the economy. 



Other election-related news and analysis

by FG on

Iran's Parliamentary Elections, Part I: The Political Landscape (from Tehran Bureau)

Mohammed Sahimi starts out by reviewing the immense crimes committed by this regime and which, in and of themselves, provide sufficient reason for an election boycott.  Then he offers three good reasons why Khamenei needs a large turnout--perfect reasons not to provide one:

...He needs to show (1) that the political system he rules  can still motivate the people to vote, can still make them believe that their votes actually count for anything; (2) that he is popular and respected and, thus, people will heed his personal call to vote; and (3) that the people did not heed the opposition's calls to boycott the elections. And, as usual, (4) a large turnout -- whether real or reported -- will be interpreted as evidence of the political system's legitimacy.



From Enduring America:


ITEMDigarban notes conservative and principlist bloggers who are calling for an election boycott next Friday, including Ahmad Najmi from Qom, Mohammad Saleh Meftah of "Tribune of the Disenfranchised", and Hesameddin Motahari of "Ketab-e Esha".

ITEM: The pro- Ahmadinejad "Armanshahr" (Utopia) and "Khat-khati" (Criss-cross Lines) blogs also doubt that the Parliamentary vote will have any value for people.

ITEMFormer MPs who now live abroad have asked people to stay away from the "unhealthy" elections next Thursday.

The spokesman of the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, has said that fewer than five of the 35 MPs barred from standing for re-election have been disqualified because of the $2.6 billion bank fraud.

From the Guardian:

Tehran prepares for an unhappy holiday season

Iranian capital's usually joyous Persian festival, Nowruz, is clouded by fear of war, exhaustion and public anger


"It is as if an epidemic of sorrows has contaminated everyone. You can't see the joy of Nowruz in people, only lifeless faces and hopeless hearts."

For Morteza, a 23-year-old student at Tehran University, the tension is palpable. "I feel more people are becoming short-tempered," he said. "It's as if they are eager to engage in a petty quarrel for no reason, all results of the current tense atmosphere in the country.

"People are under huge psychological pressure deriving from restrictions on civil liberties, as well as economic grievances caused by western sanctions and uncertainty due to the threat of war."...

The impact is perhaps most conspicuous in the Grand Bazaar, the heartbeat of the capital's economy, which hosts businesses from carpet sellers to the fish and meat markets.

Nosrat, 37, who sells women's scarves, said: "We are crossing our fingers for Nowruz, hoping people might come at least to buy at this time of the year." But without cash in their pockets, people were buying from cheaper pedlars.

Mehran, who owns a clothing boutique in Bazar Reza near Tehran's Imam Khomeini mosque in the south of the capital, said: "We call it the year of the death of the trade guilds. My store is still full of the items I brought in autumn."...

The squeeze and threat of war has left many wanting to emigrate. Ramin, a Tehran resident, said: "People have fears of the future for their children, they don't see any prosperity in Iran." Others are thinking of moving within Iran in order to avoid possible air strikes...

Many Iranians are reported to have stockpiled staples in case of a western attack. Others are hoping war will come and topple the regime. "What shocks me is to see some of my countrymen waiting for a US or Israeli war that they think would lead to a regime change," Ramin said. "They don't realise war is not necessarily going to do that."



A video report from Euronews on the Parliamentary campaign in Tehran features a young man who says he will not vote because of economic problems: "The Government and MPs don't care about us."  Make sure you select the language of choice.





...notes a the lack of enthusiasm among doctors, academics, and even workers for campaign meetings.