I grew up during the Cold War, when it was accepted wisdom that the Soviet Union was in every way the economic and military equal of America. Certainly the Soviet Union was a colossus, and it was extremely successful at leveraging its assets, especially the Fifth Column it planted all over the West. The fact is, though, that at the end it was a Potemkin village. While its leaders were posturing on the world stage, its people were falling ever further behind until it collapsed of its own weight. East Germany did the same thing. So did Poland. One after another, the traditional bulwarks of the Communist side of the Cold War folded without a shot being fired.
I wonder if that’s what’s going on in Iran today. Even as its administration spends vast sums of money building nuclear bombs, and struts across the world stage hurling death threats, the Iranian people are collapsing under the weight of an unsustainable regime. Michelle Malkin and other bloggers highlighted the social repression and physical abuse the Iranian administration visits on its citizens. Their economic situation is no better:
At least one petrol station has been set on fire in the Iranian capital, Tehran, after the government announced fuel rationing for private motorists.
Iranians were given only two hours’ notice of the move that limits private drivers to 100 litres of fuel a month.
Despite its huge energy reserves Iran lacks refining capacity, forcing it to import about 40% of its petrol.
Tehran is trying to rein in fuel consumption over fears of possible UN sanctions over its nuclear programme.
Iran fears the West could sanction its petrol imports and cripple its economy.
While the BBC story paints this rationing as a preemptive strike against potential UN sanctions, the fact is that I’ve read repeatedly that the Iranian economy is in a shambles, with vast numbers of workers unpaid and restive.
This is not to say that the current Iranian regime can’t hang on for years or even decades longer, nor that it can’t wreck unimaginable havoc during the time it has left. Nevertheless, it does indicate that the most effective thing the West can do to topple Iran from its preeminent position as a Middle Eastern troublemaker is to put a tighter and tighter squeeze on it economically. Iran is no hermetically sealed North Korea, where leaders can placidly sit back and watch their citizens starve to death. It’s quite a vital society, with an educated, often sophisticated, population that has had one Revolutionary experience, and may not be afraid to try another one.
UPDATE: The gas rationing is leading to rioting. I hope, hope, hope that the West is exploiting this economic opening.
Filed under: Iran