The Iranian economy is mired in a deep recession. The real or productive sector of the economy is paralyzed, largely by out-of-control (and often illicit) imports that have replaced domestic production. Rent seeking, corruption and the looting of national resources is pervasive. Both unemployment and inflation are extremely high. National currency is on the verge of collapse, and financial resources of the country are disproportionately invested in unproductive or parasitic activities such as buying and selling of precious metals, foreign currencies, real estate, and the like.
2018-09-01The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea - A sea or not a sea: that is still the question
On August 12, 2018, the leaders of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea (the Convention). The Convention is a positive development which should help to facilitate the implementation of new projects like the Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP). In this updater we briefly consider the Convention’s achievements alongside the important issues still left to be decided in future negotiations. [...] To conclude, while the Convention helps pave the way for the development of key pipelines and infrastructure, it does not provide answers to all legal questions pertaining to the exploitation of natural resources, and the delineation of the seabed remains unresolved. It remains to be seen whether the Convention will actually lead to greater levels of pipeline investment within the Caspian Sea area. More immediately, with the Convention currently awaiting ratification, a telling indicator of each party’s commitment will be the time taken by the parties to deposit their instruments of ratification with the Republic of Kazakhstan (as the Depositary under Article 22).
In a cycle of habit borne out repeatedly in the mainstream western media, demonization and fear mongering against Iran is picking up pace again in the face of attempts by the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to rebuild relations with the west and work toward international cooperation. The techniques and methodologies used by the west in perpetuating the geopolitically-motivated, neo-imperialist, agenda against Iran often come across in the media as clumsy and awkward in their reasoning. Before delving into the hard geopolitical reality, a much needed word on the disingenuous leveraging of human-rights against countries such as Iran is critical.
Iranian policy makers has been focusing on the new economic and political capacities of the Far East and the Middle East. Playing an important role in the Silk Road international project is an instance of the policy.
This article focuses on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential impact on Iran-China relations in the long term. Various political and economic aspects related to the BRI are taken into consideration. Would both sides benefit from the cooperation in the BRI framework or would one of them maybe have the upper hand? What are the main opportunities and challenges in the case of China-Iran relations and BRI implementation?
World-renowned mathematician and professor of mathematics at Stanford University Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017), the first woman to win Fields Medal prize, passed away battling cancer. Born and raised in Iran, Mirzakhani became a globally celebrated mathematician soon after she obtained her BSc in mathematics in 1999 from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. She travelled to the US for her graduate studies earning her PhD from Harvard University in 2004. She was awarded the Fields Medal in 2014 for her “outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces”. She has left her immediate family, her friends and colleagues, and with them her nation at a loss for words.
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.