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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Something to Watch in Iran...

THE conventional wisdom on Iran is that any regime change will be initiated internally. The simple fact of the matter is that, if Iran is to be denied nuclear capability, Mohammad Khatami and the Cleric purists cannot be allowed to continue driving the boat. The talk on the street these days is that Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has the ear of a number of the reformist groups for the late Spring Presidential elections . But, don’t be deceived by the term “reformist.” They have “devolved” such that “reformist” holds the same misnomer as would the term “democrat” in our country.

What should be interesting, however, is the reaction of the Iranian government in the very near future. Apparently, Mohammad Q. Public is getting a bit rambunctious these days. Later this month the Iranian Nurses Union is going to do an overt protest march. What’s unusual is that they are blatantly advertising that fact. Mohammad Sharafi Moghadam has gone so far as to state on record that if the Iranian government continues to ignore their requests, the Union will be forced to act outside the law.

Then, consider that more than 200 workers from Iran Pars Garment plan to hold a rally over back pay in Tehran this week. This is another overt protest right out in front of the rest of the world. They plan on marching from a town in the Northern province to Tehran in an attempt to gain the attention of the Iranian government in reference to 7 months back pay. This one is a 350km walk. You know, there are a lot of towns and villages to stop in on the way to their destination. You have to wonder whether they will pick up some moral support along the way.

The natives are getting restless.

These aren’t pro-Democracy rallies. But, you can’t deny the fact that these are the laymen challenging the highest of the high right out in broad daylight.

Now a few more underlying facts that have been made public recently; The inflation rate since the 8th month of the year in Iran is a whopping 14.8%. That can’t be good, especially when the government has been sitting on wages for the last 7 months. In addition, “the average price of fresh fruits set 33.9% growth last week compared with the first week of last month. Vegetables were also offered at 24.7% higher prices. The CBI report also noted 7.5% and 2.4% increase in the prices of eggs and cooking oil, respectively. Meanwhile, the price of white meat (chicken) set 1.3% increase in the said period while sugar was sold at 0.9% higher price.“

Simply put, an unhappy working class not receiving their wages, but seeing significant cost increases in the most basic of necessities doesn’t make for a jocular disposition. Add to that the public displays of displeasure are growing more daring against a government that exists on control through intimidation and absolute rule. You can almost smell the cordite fuse.

Then there is that other thing. Light Crude is, conveniently, falling faster than Michael Moore at the Victoria Falls Bungi Jump Classic. That can’t be good.

How the Iranian government treats these upcoming demonstrations should be interesting and telling to an extent. Handling them the wrong way could embolden other more costly demonstrations and protests. Certainly, a poorly performing economy combined with a significant number of disconcerted workers is not a recipe for bliss and decorum. It’s almost an invitation to test the bounds of permissibility.

It kind of makes you wonder if there aren’t some guests in Iran stirring the mix a bit. Perhaps someone decided to break out the old Cold War field operative manuals after all.

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