We must acknowledge that he is a courageous man, more a war general than a popular politicians. To raise fuel prices four-fold…this is to take as great a risk as any official in the world has taken, regardless of his reasons for this and his own authority. What Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did this week is more courageous than all of his previous confrontations.
Ahmadinejad raising the price of fuel four-fold is more courageous than the challenge that he has issued to the international community by persisting with Tehran’s nuclear enrichment project, which has resulted in the US and Israel issuing military threats to overthrow his regime. However his decision to hit 70 million Iranian consumers in their pockets is definitely more dangerous than the decision he took to confront and suppress three million demonstrators who took to the streets of Tehran chanting anti-governmental slogans in protest against vote rigging, and his being awarded a second presidential time.
This was an act of political suicide, yet in spite of this, Ahmadinejad has remained safely in power until now. This formidable President has prepared for the crisis [resulting from Tehran removing subsidies] with a set of measures; he has given each Iranian citizen a one-time cheque for $77 to help them through this trying time. The aim of this policy is to neutralize [the protests] of the poor, by providing them with a little bit extra. As for the ever-grumbling middle classes, Ahmadinejad is well prepared for this, with the army, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij are on a state of alert in all cities, ready to put down anybody who dares to protest.
Is it a mistake? For Ahmadinejad, the removing of subsidies will be a defining moment, as would any decision not to do so. He will now not back down from this decision, no matter how much blood is shed or how many cities are burnt to the ground…that is unless the Supreme Leader of Iran takes the decision to throw him to the wolves.
Although Ahmadinejad has, for months, been giving justifications as to why this is a necessary step, and calling on the public to be patient and understand his decision, it is not natural for the citizens of any country to sacrifice their livelihood in this manner, regardless of the justifications.
What will happen now? Either Ahmadinejad will have to suppress the protests of his own people, and as one ordinary Iranian said, the people will have to give up “rice and shish kebab’s” or he will back down from this decision [to remove subsidies]. It is most likely that the people will eat cheese and olives [instead of rice and shish kebabs].
However before we blame Ahmadinejad for his cruelty, we should remember that he did not create this crisis but inherited it. The Iranian regime has always subsidized prices for different political and economic reasons, to the point that the government is today facing huge bills that threaten to bankrupt it. The government says that it paid $114 billion on energy subsidies, which is a huge figure by any criteria, but especially for a country with decreasing revenues. Petrol in Iran was the cheapest in the world thanks to these government subsidies, even cheaper than the price of petrol in Saudi Arabia, where the price of fuel is also heavily subsidized.
However this has all changed; Iran is experiencing a domestic economic war, something that the Americans and their allies are relying upon. Iran produces oil – the most wonderful commodity with which the world cannot do without – however despite this, Tehran will have no option but to give up its political project whose objective is to secure Iranian dominance in the Middle East, especially over oil-producing regions in the Gulf, due to the countries financial state of affairs. Tehran will also have to give up its military nuclear project which would have ensured the survival of the Iranian regime. This is a waiting game, and it is a difficult one to call, for the question is: who will give in first?