Iran will soon be back in the headlines. American politics has pushed Iran’s nuclear pursuits to the back burner, but the topic is far from dead. Disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem pressed Prime Minister Netanyahu to retreat from an attack. Now that the American election is settled, that interruption in the discussion is concluded. At this moment Netanyahu is embroiled in his own election battle and hemmed in by those national issues.
In a recent discussion with an Israeli military officer, I was told that Netanyahu is a shoe-in. While much of the electioneering has to do with economics, a solid win would solidify Bibe’s position in Israel on handling the Iranian conflict. Of course, Iran is now struggling with what happens if they lose in Syria. As reported several months ago, the Syrian public is not happy with the radical pursuit of enriched uranium. The man on the street is paying the price.
That issue has taken a sharp turn for the worst.
Black market street dealers are now out on the sidewalks shouting, “Medicine! Medicine! We can supply whatever you need!”
Obama’s program of sanctions continues to squeeze. For the first time in a decade, peddlers are out near Tehran’s main bazaar. The West’s sanctions have indirectly limited normal supplies to hospitals and pharmacies. Because of critical shortages, the only way to obtain many life saving drugs is through the underground. Restrictions on access to international banking networks presents problems for paying for not only medicines but other medical equipment as well. Over-crowded conditions in hospitals is now the order of the day. Costs for radiological film rose 240 percent while filters for kidney dialysis are up 325 percent. The head of a health committee appealed to President Ahmadinejad to recognize the seriousness of the problem. When the former health minister and the only women cabinet member appealed to the president sbout the same problem, she was dismissed. Banking problems have effected much of Iran’s economy in similar ways. The smugglers by-pass these problems by hand carrying merchandise into the country. Obviously, this underground system sends the prices through the ceiling.
The head of Iran’s parliamentary budget committee, Gholam Rez Kateb, indicated that income from oil and gas exports have fallen by 45 percent. Since no reprieve exists at this point, by March austerity responses will be necessary with major tax hikes to follow. In an economy under stress, the government must recognize what a continual squeeze will do to the citizens. Whether they will respond is not clear.
At this point, Obama’s insistence on sanctions appears to be working. The ultimate issues is whether the Iranian mullahs are willing to bend under pressure. No one is for sure. If Netanyahu prevails in the forthcoming election, the stage will be set for a return to the confrontation between Washington and Israel that occurred last spring. At this point, the question would become whether Israel is willing to strike by itself if Iran continues to enrich uranium.
Might Iran stop? You cannot judge this situation by American standards. The mullahs know how to live through austerity. The question is whether the country does.