Iranian Parliament Summons President as Economy Sputters

Iranians have been feeling the crunch of foreign sanctions on the country's economy. Prices for gold and American dollars are way up. Reuters reports food shortages and word of mouth carries stories of the frantic stockpiling of meat, rice, and other staples. According to one Iranian service employee, "We know they want to pressure us so we rise against our government, but we are not in a position to do that." The New York Times reports:

Ordinary Iranians complain that the sanctions are hurting them, while those at the top are unscathed, or even benefit. Many wealthy Iranians made huge profits in recent weeks by buying dollars at the government rate (available to insiders) and then selling them for almost twice as many rials on the soaring black market. Some analysts and opposition political figures contend that Mr. Ahmadinejad deliberately worsened the currency crisis so that his cronies could generate profits this way.

The Iranian parliament appears to have caught wind of some of these grievances. On Tuesday the deputy speaker announced a successful vote to summon President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Al Jazeera reports that he will face "questioning over a long list of accusations including mismanagement of the nation's economy." Though Parliament has the constitutional power to call the president in for questioning, no president has been summoned since the inception of the current regime in 1979.

Meanwhile, other branches of the Iranian government have been demonstrating increasing anxiety in the run-up to the March 2 parliamentary elections. As I've previously noted, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has stepped up arbitrary arrests of journalists, activists, and foreign nationals. The judiciary has been upholding their death sentences. Khamenei has warned against protests surrounding the March elections more than once, urging voters and losing candidates not to repeat the uprisings of 2009:

The last issue relating to the elections: The authorities should not ignore the conspiracies of the enemies against the elections. Those who do not receive enough votes in the elections should also be aware and should not be fooled like those who did not get any votes in 2009. They should not be deceived... Don't blame the elections, don't help the enemy, and an atmosphere of conflict and hopelessness should not be displayed in the campaign so we can, God willing, have a good election. [Emphasis added]

It is unclear to which enemy Khamenei is referring, but given the context, it's likely he is referring to civil unrest and not his other main preocuppation, Western influence. Ahmadinejad's allies have been campaigning in the boonies to secure some kind of success for themselves in the election. This gesture of summoning Ahmadinejad for questioning may be the existing Parliament's attempt to influence the outcome of the elections.

Read more on Iranian foreign relations, inflation, and questionable election strategies.

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  • A Serious Man||

    Sanctions that cause millions to live in misery or even starve are just as immoral and bellicose as bombings. But this is the path that his Excellency Barack Obama has chosen and what I'm told by reformed anti-war left-wingers makes him superior to Bush because of his "nuance".

  • Pip||

    Bullshit.

  • Pip, more literate trans.||

    I Luv Obama. He never hurt no one!

  • Michelle Obama||

    This one time he held my head under the covers and farted. It was so bad, I gagged and had to have the staff doctor put me on a respirator for four hours. Oh, the book I'm going to write on his ass one day!

  • Hugh Akston||

    Have economic sanctions ever done anything other than driven a country's populace deeper into poverty before we decide to roll in and bomb the shit out of them anyway?

  • affenkopfs||

    Without sanctions we would never have gotten rid of Castro!

  • A Serious Man||

    Yeah, give or take 50 years Ahmandinejad and those raghead's days are numbered!

  • ||

    Economic sanctions serve one purpose: to give the world the false sense that the United States hates going to war.

  • BakedPenguin||

    two purposes - they also provide the justification for doing so when they don't work.

  • Raston Bot||

    Not to fret. The IMF, World Bank, and USAID will put together a development aid package in the coming years to bring that population further into poverty and prop up the theocrats and military.

  • ||

    South Africa

  • Not Even There They Thrived||

  • Nelson Mandella||

    Yes.

  • No||

    aida.wss.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp796.pdf

  • AlmightyJB||

    Ahmadinejad's just a puppet/scapegoat anyways. Funny how both aid and sanctions do the same thing. Enrich the corrupt leaders at the expense of the people.

  • Ron Paul||

    I know, right?

  • ||

    Ain't that fascinating how it works?

  • ||

    Can't wait for the neo-con onslaught.

    Seems the previous Iran thread ground to a halt this afternoon. I guess they had to change their soiled drawers.

  • ||

    WARBONER ATTACK!

  • ||

    Is wargasm a word?

  • o3||

    should be

  • A Serious Man||

    It's a call sign in Call of Duty online.

  • BakedPenguin||

    WARBONER ATTACK!

    Cry hard on! and let slip the boners of war!

  • ||

    There was a time, when Republicans used to stand up against this sort of sanctions strategy, as recently as before China gained entry into the World Trade Organization. ...the question of whether China should get MFN status was endlessly debated in Congress, with the Democrats lining up behind their union cronies all the time.

    These sanctions against Iran are more or less the same sort of thing, and they will probably fail for the same reasons. Keeping China on its toes over worries about access to world markets didn't keep China from running over its children with tanks around Tienanmen Square...

    Sanctions didn't make Saddam Hussein do what we wanted him to do either. I suspect the sanctions against Iran will make the Iranian government do what we want them to do--right after our sanctions against Cuba finally start having the desired effect. And how long have we had sanctions against Cuba now?

    If the example of China is any guide, increasing economic cooperation with Iran would probably be more conducive to making Iran a partner for stability in the world. When China was marginalized from the rest of the world, it used to export instability and fund Maoist rebel movements all over the world. Nowadays, when you hear people talk about a Maoist insurgency, they're talking about the insurgency's ideology rather than their funding. China is now so concerned about keeping the economies of the west stable, they're looking at underwriting a lot more of Europe's debt in the name of stability even as I type!

    If we wanted to see a similar transformation in Iran's foreign policy--from promoting instability to promoting stability--we should endeavor to forge closer economic ties rather than impose sanctions.

    I know there's an ick factor for a lot of people in "cozying up to dictators", but if the alternative to forging closer economic ties is often stupid strategies that don't work--like sanctions or war? Then we'd do a lot better for ourselves by cozyin' on up and forging strong economic ties.

  • ||

    Sanctions worked on South Africa and Serbia.

  • No||

    aida.wss.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp796.pdf

  • ||

    As Levy wrote on page 12 from your link, "The best one can do is argue that it is implausible that trade sanctions played a significant and positive role....At the very least, this should cast serious doubt on the applicability of the South African case as a model for further trade sanctions."

    And the ineffectiveness of sanctions is only one half of the argument. The other half is about the effectiveness of economic activity and trade to bring about change.

    When we hit someone with sanctions, not only are we pursuing a strategy that's generally ineffective, we're also depriving ourselves of a strategy that's generally effective.

    Is there anyone here who wants to argue that trade between two nations isn't generally effective at promoting stability?

  • BakedPenguin||

    SA was mostly modern economy. It's hard to maintain prosperity (even for only half the population) when no one will trade with you. Serbia is tiny, and could not come close to producing what they need.

    Iran has a tyrannical state that doesn't care if it's people go hungry, has a large supply of a very fungible and desirable commodity, and has little in the way of high tech infrastructure to keep up. Also, Russia doesn't give a shit. They were too weak to go against world opinion in the early 1990's with Serbia, but not now. Sanctions will fail.

  • ||

    South Africa also had a very large and unhappy majority population.

  • ||

    Good points. But the original dudee was asking if they ever work.

  • Frayed Knot||

    You assume that the Iranian govt. would be interested in such economic incentives. Given that hatred of American is their raison d'etre, I'm rather skeptical of that notion.

  • Michelle Obama||

    Where do you get this stuff? It is far more more Cuba's raison d'etre than Iran's.

  • ||

    If we offered them a way to make a ton of money by trading with the United States, they'd be interested.

    The people who run Iran are just like the rest of us in at least two ways: they love their children too, and they like money.

    Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McQT-XH3wGA

    NSFW

  • ||

    Some analysts and opposition political figures contend that Mr. Ahmadinejad deliberately worsened the currency crisis so that his cronies could generate profits this way.

    How awful it must be to live under a government that does such things.

  • Shit for Brains||

    Ordinary Iranians complain that the sanctions are hurting them, while those at the top are unscathed, or even benefit

    This is really extraordinary and unprecedented. I don't think sanctions have ever had this kind of effect before.

  • ||

    Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein certainly continued to live like kings regardless of whatever economic or diplomatic sanctions we threw at them.

  • cynical||

    I think some Iranian MPs are going to learn a painful lesson about ninjutsu very soon.

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