As Iran struggles to win the confidence of the West to head off a military attack, the ordinary people of the country struggle daily with rising prices and growing unemployment.
It can only be with a sense of profound amazement then that the Iranian people greeted the recent pronouncements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In two days at the end of July, Ahmadinejad turned reality on its head.
In a meeting with senior economics officials from the private sector to discuss a proposed economic reform package, the president boldly claimed: ‘We can quickly rank first in the world economy.’
Echoing the Khomeini-inspired mantra that ‘economics is for donkeys,’ Ahmadinejad went on to accuse previous administrations of ‘obsessing too much with expertise’ in their consideration of economic planning.
Claiming, nonetheless, that experts and economics activists agreed with the regime’s economic strategy, Ahmadinejad went on to proclaim: ‘We have to, hand in hand, place our dear Iran on top of the world.’
Clearly, Ahmadinejad and his advisers had not been informed of the latest public opinion poll published by Internet news site NoAndish.
Although not claiming to be ‘experts,’ the Iranian people are nevertheless the victims of the regime’s actions.
When asked about the new economic reform package, 71 percent said that they did ‘not consider the plan beneficial to the public.’
Petrol is the most telling symbol of Iran’s economic failure.
Three years ago, the oil minister boasted that Iran would be moving towards self-sufficiency in domestic gasoline needs.
However, in the middle of June, a supplementary budget was presented to the Iranian parliament requesting $7.5 billion to import petrol and diesel. The budget for the current fiscal year stands at $3.5billion.
Despite the fact that Iran is the second-biggest oil producer in OPEC, the request for additional funds for imports has been justified because of the rising price of oil on the international market.
The reason why Iran needs to import so much petrol is that its refining capacity remains insufficient. The essential investment which could move this oil-rich nation towards self-sufficiency in its petrol needs has not been made.
Ahmadinejad may be laboring under the illusion that he is leading the country, but it has clearly been some time since he looked over his shoulder. If he did so, he would find that many of his compatriots are a long way behind him.
And the Iranian president’s detachment from reality does not end in the realm of domestic politics.
Speaking to a group of clerics in Kahgiloie va Bovir about his trip to New York last year, Ahmadinejad pronounced: ‘The world is with us.’
More amazingly still, the president claimed that one of the U.S. presidential candidates had told him: ‘Your words have resonance here.’
It is possible to believe a great deal of U.S. presidential candidates, but to suggest that any, in the present political climate, would give Ahmadinejad such an endorsement is stretching credulity to its limits.
In the build-up to the country’s 2009 presidential elections, Ahmadinejad wants to present himself as an international statesman capable of playing a leading part on the world stage.
Ironically, Ahmadinejad’s words often do resonate.
His claim to be on a ‘global mission’ has an uncanny resonance with the simplistic jargon of the ‘war on terror’ and the characterization of states as being part of an ‘axis of evil.’
These are resonances that the world can do without and that the people of both the U.S. and Iran, in their respective elections, would no doubt be relieved to be freed from.
Jane Green is campaign organizer for CODIR, the UK-based Committee for the Defense of the Iranian People’s Rights. This article is reprinted with permission from CODIR. For more information, visit www.codir.net or e-mail email@example.com.