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:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2016

The Habits of Highly Cynical People

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Unhackable

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Imperium

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Fighting Chance

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Front Runner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Elisabeth Zerofsky on Marine Le Pen, Paul Wachter on the quest for an unhackable email, Rebecca Solnit on cynical people, Andrew J. Bacevich on truth and fiction in the age of war, Samuel James photographs E.P.L. soccer, a story by Vince Passaro, and more

The old woman’s husband, even older than she, has lived long enough. She is careful not to say this to her daughters, to her brother, to the doctors. He’s had a stroke, or something like a stroke, and at first he seemed to be recovering. Then there were intermittent bad days and setbacks and now, a few weeks in, they are all bad days: he is declining, delirious, difficult, and she is exhausted. Her mind — usually a badger den of plans, desires, and, most of all, worry — now, at night, in its rare moments of rest, tumbles into a pale white silence. She doesn’t want him to live on like this, biting the nurses like a dog that needs to be put down.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Front Runner·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The F.N. asked to be sent to an institution whose legitimacy it did not accept, and French voters rewarded the party with first place in the election."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Article
American Imperium·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"One consequence of remaining perpetually at war is that the political landscape in America does not include a peace party."
Illustration (detail) by Steven Dana
Article
War of The Roses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Guns never had a political agenda. They were first and foremost about themselves and their music."
Photograph (detail) by Marc Canter
Article
A Shrinking World, An Opening Sky·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Her mind — usually a badger den of plans, desires, and, most of all, worry — now, at night, in its rare moments of rest, tumbles into a pale white silence."
The No Mind Not Thinks No Things vokgret (detail), by Doug and Mike Starn. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Lelong, New York City

Average number of times a Canadian apologizes each week:

4

Beaumont, Texas, produces the saddest tweets.

The Finnish postal service announced it will begin mowing lawns on Tuesdays.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today