The 926-km railroad linking the capital Tehran to the eastern religious tourism hub of Mashhad is part of China's New Silk Road initiative named "One Belt, One Road", which will cut short a long journey for Iranian passengers and cargo.
It is now common knowledge that the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S., which has since spread to other parts of the capitalist world, was precipitated largely by a disproportionately high degree of financialization, that is, by an unsustainable financial bubble on top of a much narrower base of real values. It is equally well-known that systematic deregulation of the financial sector in the U.S., especially of the dismantlement of the Glass-Steagall Act (in 1998), which had fairly well regulated the financial sector in the aftermath of the Great Depression, was a major contributing factor to the creation of the financial bubble that burst in 2008. Regrettably, President Rouhani and his economic team seem to be altogether oblivious to the bitter experiences of the financialization disaster in the U.S. and other core capitalist countries around the world. This blatant inattention to the devastating consequences of a bloated financial sector at the expense of a cash-strapped real sector, combined with a trade policy which has effectively replaced domestic products with foreign products through a policy of unhindered importation of foreign goods and services, has greatly contributed to Iran’s economic stagnation.
Iran-Russia relations have reached an unprecedented peak, fueled by military cooperation in Syria, a shared vision of the global order, and mutual criticism of Western policy in the Middle East. Tehran is a useful ally to Moscow in a highly unstable region, but it is just one thread in Moscow’s patchwork of important relationships that need careful balancing. Moscow offers Tehran a critical means of protecting its regional security interests. However, Iran’s leadership is divided on how best to hedge bets between Eastern and Western powers to achieve the country’s strategic objectives. Despite their differences, the war in Syria looks set to be the crucible of Moscow-Tehran cooperation for some time to come, given its centrality to the strategic ambitions of both parties. Instead of pursuing policies that attempt to exploit divisions between Iran and Russia, Europe should use its limited leverage to reduce violence in Syria and, if possible, pave road for political transition later down the road. This can only happen with better understanding of the drivers of Iran and Russia's policy in the region.
While the lifting of sanctions in January provides great promise for Iran’s future economy, the consequential effects they have had on the natural environment have been at an unforgiving cost. The sustained environmental problems that current and future generations have inherited as a result of political strife could take generations to recover from.
At the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Tehran, the Islamic Republic of Iran and People’s Republic of China announced that by achieving a major agreement in all areas of bilateral relations and regional and international issues, they have established ties based on “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”. The “Joint Statement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Islamic Republic of Iran and People’s Republic of China” consists of 20 articles, specifying the roadmap of developing and deepening Tehran-Beijing ties in “Political”, “Executive Cooperation”, “Human and Cultural”, “Judiciary, Security and Defence”, and “Regional and International” domains. The statement was simultaneously published in both countries on Saturday at the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Tehran.
2016-03-01President Rouhani’s “Open-Door” Economic Policy: Recipe for Indebtedness, Deindustrialization and Dependence
Iran’s economy is severely anemic, and the overwhelming majority of its citizens are under tremendous financial distress. Sadly, though, economic doctors of the country tend to insist on issuing wrong prescriptions for the ailing economy: free trade, unrestricted imports, lack of an export promotion policy (except for oil and other raw materials), tendency to borrow from abroad, lack of a serious banking/financial regulation—in short, lack of any economic plan, guidance or direction. Unless these misguided, anti-developmental policies are modified or reversed, Iran’s economic difficulties are bound to deteriorate: its markets flooded by foreign products, its manufacturing base weakened, its foreign debt escalated and, with it, its national sovereignty compromised.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday called for closer economic and security ties with China, saying Iran had never trusted the West, as the two countries agreed to increase bilateral trade more than 10-fold to $600 billion in the next decade.
I recently returned from a six-week trip to Iran. While the primary purpose of my trip was to visit family and friends, I also made some general enquiries into the state of the country’s stagnant economy. These included informal discussions with various strata of economic agents or market players: manufacturers, bankers, shopkeepers, miners, farmers, livestock breeders, workers, teachers, and more. Sadly, most of these economic actors painted pictures of pessimism and distrust of the country’s economic conditions. The economy is mired in a protracted stagflation, with no government plan or macroeconomic policy for recovery. While the Rouhani administration boasts of having contained or slowed down the inflation, the Iranian people do not cherish that tempering of inflation as it has come about at the expense of deepened recession; that is, at the expense of heightened unemployment and weakened purchasing power. As a retired school teacher, who now works as a taxi driver, put it, lowering inflation by worsening recession is no cause for celebration (paraphrased).
Tired of the oppressive financial hardship, wrought largely by the imperialist economic war against Iran, the Iranian people elected Hassan Rouhani president (June 2013) as he promised economic revival. He premised his pledge of economic recovery mainly on his alleged ability to bring the brutal sanctions against Iran to an end and integrate the Iranian economy into world capitalist system. His promise of removing or alleviating sanctions, however, seems to have been based on an optimistic perception that a combination of the so-called charm offensive and far-reaching compromises over Iran’s nuclear technology would suffice to alter the Western powers’ sanctions policy against Iran.
Part 1 of this series described the birth of the nationalist-religious movement in the early 1940s, and its development all the way to 1977. In the present article, I describe the efforts of the nationalist-religious groups and activists between 1977 and 1979. As this article makes clear, the Iran of that era has striking similarities with the country and its state of affairs today.