The gasoline prices in Iran were jacked up by 50% recently. This led to riots that caused damage to the public and private property, and a number of casualties occurred when the authorities dealt with the rioters with a heavy hand.
The riots have subsided though they may smolder for a while.
President Rouhani of Iran announced on Wednesday (20 November) that the “plots hatched by enemies” had been foiled, and “people emerged victorious from yet another historic test.”
IRNA, the official news agency of Iran, says that while addressing the parliament, Rouhani said that despite economic problems, the people will never let certain elements to serve the interests of the enemy.
Meanwhile, several media outlets reported that the Israeli military had struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday, carrying out a “wide-scale” strike in response to rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights the day before.
A US intelligence official said the same day that Iran’s missile force was the largest in the Middle East.
Also the same day, protests took place in Iraq on the information contained in a leaked batch of secret documents that describe the influence of Iran in Iraq at the highest level.
Also on Wednesday, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, in his annual address to the Shura Council, said that the international community must stop Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and its regional intervention.
* * *
The situation in Iran has been deteriorating since last year. The tempo of provocations and counter-provocations has been rising steadily; the stakes are high.
If a war starts in the Middle East, it will not be limited in geography or scale – and, once it starts, no one will have the decisive clout to stop it.
Even though it may be futile, it is important to say a few words of caution to Iran and the West, and make some suggestions for Central Asia.
* * *
The gasoline price hike certainly acted as a catalyst but there is no denying the fact that the growing economic woes of the ordinary citizens, a mix of mismanagement and re-imposition of sanctions, had been nurturing resentment.
A sudden increase of 50% in gasoline price was bound to jolt the majority of the population, especially considering the fact that the increase in the fuel price directly leads to increase in the price of everything else.
The government has acted quickly by providing cash relief to the most affected segments of the population but this is a stop-gap arrangement.
There should be the two-pronged approach to deal with the fuel question: 1. Decrease the consumption of fuel; and 2. Increase the local refining capacity.
Currently the average daily consumption of gasoline in Iran is about 2.49 million barrels whereas the daily refining is nearly 2.23 million barrels. There is a shortfall of more than 10% between the demand and local supply.
The refining capacity needs to be expanded urgently. For this, several friendly countries such as Russia, China, and Turkey, could provide technology and equipment.
More important than that is the need to switch to electric vehicles to cut down on the consumption of fuel.
Most of the fuel consumed by cars in Iran is spent on commuting or traveling within the cities. For this purpose, the cheap and reliable electric vehicles are already a reality as we see in the case of China. Every electric automobile doesn’t need to be a Tesla. The cars available from China in the price range of USD 2000-2500 can go 100-120 km on a single full charge, and the charging time is 5-8 hours. The speed may not be to the liking of many Iranians because such cars generally don’t go more than 50-70 km per hour. However, considering the fact that within the city limits it is not possible to go beyond those speed limitations because of the congested traffic, the Chinese vehicles should be quite suitable for an average family.
This idea is not new for Iran.
The two-seater electric vehicle called ‘Yooz’ (Panther) has already passed the experimental stage. There is the need to study the lessons learned in Yooz to start building electric cars that would simultaneously be affordable, reliable, and the battery capacity to suffice a full day’s chores.
An easy way is to select some good models from China, initially import them, and subsequently establish joint ventures with China. This will help save the hydrocarbon fuel, contribute to clean air, and create some jobs.
Speaking of jobs, this is the area where the authorities need to focus more.
One of the spheres where Iran can find receptive export markets is the food industry, particularly the Halal food industry.
One of the restricting factors in the way of the food industry is the shortage of water. This can partially be solved by combining the solar power farms with the water recycling plants.
The features of economy in the major cities and small towns are quite different from each other in Iran. There is the need for localized solutions with full support of the state to create jobs for the able bodied population.
Another factor that the decision-makers may like to revisit is the size of their plate. The Iranian plate, just like the plate of every other country, is not big enough to put every ambition onto it. Heaping the plate is disastrous.
This is the time to reevaluate the need – if there is any real need – to maintain the Iranian influence in different countries and regions.
There is also the need to revisit the policy stances that have led to friction in the Middle East.
It is a simple matter of calculating the economic benefits that will come from peaceful coexistence.
For the West
The US authorities including Pompeo cheered the protesters in Iran. There are indications that the Americans may have been doing more than just cheering the protesters. At least this is the official position of Iran, as mentioned by the Supreme Leader Khamnei and President Rouhani.
There is a bloody history of western interference in Iran. The Iranian people have still not forgotten the CIA coup against Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.
Despite all the backing from the west, particularly the USA, the regime of Shah following the deposition of Mossadegh did not last more than 25 years.
The prime explanation is that despite centuries of interaction, the west doesn’t understand the inner composition of the Iranian people. /// nCa, 21 November 2019
To be continued . . .