Whatever Happened To Iran?

Whatever Happened To Iran?

Who? What? Where?

Long a headliner in the news, Iran has disappeared from the headlines, and even the inside pages. It has largely disappeared from the news, after being the big headline for a long time. This is probably good for Iran, despite its many problems.

I have made a big effort to find out its current economic status. The little data out there seems to suggest that not much is happening. GDP had been falling in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement, which Iran had and continues to adhere to, with the official support of the official signatories, even as private companies in many of them against their governments, have pulled back from dealing with Iran under US pressure. But that is old news.

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA was provocative, and pushed many companies such as France’s Total to withdraw from dealing with Iran, along with many others. This satisfied a campaign promise of Trump’s, even as he has been lying on a 15 per day rate recently according to recent reports.

About the time of the US’s withdrawal over a half year ago, there were many reports of having a collapsing economy. There were many reports of demonstrations against the government in hardline Islamist regions over the troubled economy. Somehow these reports seem to have stopped, although I would not rule out that some may still be happening. But the world is not hearing of them, and I do not think this is due to some increased level of Iranian suppression.

No, I think Iran has halted its economic decline, not that things are great. This post is partly triggered by talking to a good friend recently returned from Iran who reports that while things are expensive, most goods are available and the economy seems to be more or less stable.

Despite this supposed intense push by the US to harm the Iranian economy, parts of that certainly in place, without publicity US policy has recently gone the other way, not so vigorously harming the Iranian economy. For starters we have that the US gave “temporary” exemptions from the renewed US sanctions against nations importing Iranian oil for 8 major such importers. The upshot is not all that much of a reduction of such exports from Iran, an obviously crucial factor.

Then we have more recent subtle pro-Iranian decisions, most importantly Trump’s announcement of US removing troops from Syria. This helps Iran, even if the removal is slowed down as seems likely. We also have SecState Pompeo pressuring the Saudis to end their boycott against Qatar, which has retained both political and economic relations with Iran, not to mention having just whupped Saudi Arabia in soccer 2-0.

So, we, or at least I, do not know what precisely is going on inside Iran, long a highly repressive regime, despite its facade ofs pseudo-democracy. They have been continuing to adhere to the JCPOA nuclear deal, even as recent reports have them possibly setting up increased uranium enrichment facilities and activities. While there have been many demos against the government over the troubled economy, it seems that these have slowed down, or at least reporting of them has.

The US does not determine all that happens in Iran, but it seems that currently the US has an inconsistent verging on incoherent policy regarding Iran. But for Iran, this turn from full hostility, combined with a possible upturn in world oil prices, may explain an unreported stabilization in Iran.

Barkley Rosser