Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is Iran's Nuclear Program Losing Popular Support?

Iran's leaders have been very successful in pursuing its nuclear program, ignoring threats of sanctions and thumbing their nose at Obama.

Just one problem:
there is now increasing resentment that the once popular nuclear programme could be detracting from more urgent needs in the face of economic mismanagement and sanctions.

A Chinese-style construction and consumption boom in the capital Tehran has started to sour. One third of the shops at the Laleh Shopping Centre in central Tehran have closed in recent months. Merchants said demand has held up only cars and mobile phones, where new products are available to replace antiquated models.
If Iranians blamed the economic slowdown on sanctions, Ahmadinejad might focus Iranian anger at the US and garner more support for the program. But apparently, people are placing the blame for Iran's economic problem squarely on the government.

Even in the nuclear age, Iranians see that the economy is in a mess:
Central Bank of Iran figures reveal a huge drop in financial reserves despite massive earnings from oil exports. In the first nine months of last year foreign exchange holdings dropped $13.8 billion (£9 billion) to $77 billion. Some economists believe that foreign exchange reserves may not cover the annual cost of imports.

Meanwhile Tehran has introduced petrol rationing, curbing the right to buy subsidised petrol for three months. Budget cuts of $20 billion were ordered last month.

Youth unemployment is a prime source of disenchantment in a country where 70 per cent of the population is aged under 30. University graduates proclaim they don't care for advancement because opportunity has been stymied. "We listen to rap, take mushrooms and drink whisky," said one Tehran resident in his twenties. "I would go abroad if I could but I can't, so I stay at home and party with my friends."
Ahmadinejad managed to get "re-elected" despite the poor job he did managing the economy. Now, with the already existing discontent about Ahmadinejad and the elections--can more riots be far behind?

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