No Comment — June 27, 2007, 5:07 pm

Iran on 26 Gallons a Month

Flames erupted across Tehran today as angry drivers set filling stations on fire. Could this be the start of one of the most important and most unanticipated news stories of the year?

A little more than a month ago, I was out in Orange County, California and had a pleasant dinner meeting with some of the nation’s leading Iran analysts. They were all angry about the White House’s highly provocative stance with respect to Iran. What, exactly, is the matter with it? “The Iranian populace is the most pro-American bloc in the region. They’re our prime asset. Any policy that starts with shattering our prime asset – that goodwill – is criminally stupid. A smart policy towards Iran would begin by understanding the inherent weaknesses of the mullahs and the Ahmadinejad government and would exploit them effectively. In the end, America doesn’t have to bring them down – the Iranian people will be delighted to do it. And it will be a hell of a lot cheaper and more predictable than launching an air war on Iran. And the long-term prospects are much better.”

I’m no Iran expert. But it made sense to me. They also said that the threats and cajoling coming from the White House made it difficult for Iranian opposition to move and built support from within around the government. But every American understands those dynamics. We lived through them in the months after 9/11.

But first some background: Everybody knows that Iran is a big oil producer. Iran possesses the world’s fourth-largest petroleum reserves, obviating the need for extra energy production. Right? Well, Reuters provides a story today that questions this perception: Iran has announced on state television that it will begin gasoline rationing, with a limit of 100 liters (26 gallons) of gasoline a month alloted for each automobile. Despite massive oil reserves, limited refining capacities continue to hamper Iran’s ability to supply its populace with heavily-subsidized gas. Add to this the key misery indicators: unemployment and inflation, both running at about 20%. No government enjoys broad popular support with these sorts of numbers. And this may explain why Iranian leaders like to talk about threats from abroad and the need to “circle the wagons” to support the government. Without the foreign threat, they have little to justify their continued governance.

The saber-rattling that the Bush administration has done lately, is Ahmadinejad’s good news. It may be the only thing keeping him afloat. Following the rationing announcement, several gas stations in Tehran were mobbed and burnt, and rioting took place at several locations throughout the city. Iranians are wondering what happened to Ahmadinejad’s campaign promises about spreading the benefits of Iran’s rich oil possessions – they seem to ring bit hollow on less than a gallon of gas a day.

All of this also makes the current hostage scandal a bit easier to understand. Four Americans have been seized and their dealings with dissident or opposition-oriented groups are used to stigmatize and silence likely sources of opposition to Ahmadinejad.

On the other hand, since the weekend, the Iranian press’s anti-American and anti-prisoner hysteria has suddenly gone silent. What’s up? A European diplomat is suggesting to us that Ahmadinejad may be prepared to release one of the four American hostages it currently holds. This is the sort of report that one can’t rely on, of course, but we can always hope there’s something to it.

Evan Magruder contributed to this post.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

January 2015

Come With Us If You Want to Live

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Body Politic

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Problem of Pain Management

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Game On

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Love Crimes

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Body Politic·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘He wrote all these love poems, but he was a son of a bitch,’ said a reporter from a wire service.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
Love Crimes·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If a man rapes a woman, she might be forced to marry him, because in Afghanistan sex before marriage is dishonorable.”
Photographs © Andrew Quilty/Oculi/Agence VU
Article
Game On·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union had posed a truly existential threat.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Come With Us If You Want to Live·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I was startled that all these negative ideologies could be condensed so easily into a positive worldview.”
Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:

36,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today