January 15, 2006


All quiet amid the storm: As Iran’s government plays nuclear hardball, its people are just not joining in (Robert Tait, 1/15/06, Sunday Herald)

Having endured more than a quarter century of revolutionary Islamic rule and accompanying US sanctions, Iranians are used – if not reconciled – to a sense of isolation and siege. Many hanker after better ties with the West, with whom they know their government is not popular.

“People aren’t talking about this,” said Ali, 25, an engineering student . “Normally, when there is an important issue, it’s on television five times a day and people are talking about it on the buses and in the taxis. It’s not like that with this, though I think it is important.”

Many Western analysts depict the burgeoning nuclear conflict as one of the few issues which can unite Iranians. Yet such uniformity is not apparent from anecdotal evidence.

Most Iranians, when asked, support Iran’s right to nuclear energy. Only a few think it should develop nuclear weapons. Others, alienated by the Islamic regime, voice suspicion about their government’s intentions, and question its fitness to possess an atomic bomb.

“If nuclear power was a bad thing, then the US or China wouldn’t have it,” said housewife Atoosa Salehi, 35. “I’m for it, but only for peaceful purposes.”

With such qualified support, it is not certain that this is the issue to bring Iran’s 70 million people rallying under the mullahs. “Public opinion doesn’t care about the nuclear issue,” said political analyst Saeed Leylaz. “People are occupied with economic problems . If the issue will affect the country in this way, people will become involved, otherwise they don’t care. People don’t support the regime’s policy and they don’t oppose it.”

That factor is almost certain to figure heavily as the regime calculates how far to push its nuclear aspirations, while the US and EU – along with Russia and China – ponder economic sanctions.

Iran’s economy has suffered heavily under the embargo imposed by America following the 1979-81 hostage crisis, when Iranian revolutionaries held more than 50 diplomats at the US embassy in Tehran. A spate of plane crashes – including two in the past month that have killed 120 people – have been blamed on US sanctions that ban the sale of spare airline parts to Iran.

With trade with China, the EU and others flourishing, Iranians have easy access to most consumer durables. Yet the US economic blockade has hindered Iran’s oil industry – the nation’s main source of wealth – and complicates everyday activities such as banking.

WITH that in mind, many observers believe Iran’s new tactics are aimed at engaging directly with America, and that the nuclear issue will be used as a bargaining chip to persuade the US to lift embargoes. But if that backfires and the UN Security Council wants further sanctions, it could force Iran’s leaders to retreat. With unemployment estimated at around 25%, any economic pressure that brings further austerity – and possible social unrest – could persuade the regime to back down.

Kind of silly to fear a government that won't even be around in 2007.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 15, 2006 1:35 PM

Kind of silly, yes. Very tragic to engage these regimes mlitarily when it is so unnecessary.

Posted by: Dennis at January 15, 2006 2:18 PM

Public opinion polling is an almost meaningless exercise in the US, where there is a long tradition of free speech. How meaningless is it a corrupt tyranny?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 15, 2006 3:00 PM

Dennis: What "regimes" are you talking about? Iran is no nearer to a regime change than Syria, Cuba, North Korea, pre-9/11 Afghanistan, pre-9/11 Iraq, etc. "Militarily" is the only option.

Posted by: b at January 15, 2006 9:37 PM


It's a democracy, though an imperfect one. The President has the support of neither the people nor the Supreme Guardian.

Posted by: oj at January 15, 2006 10:30 PM


I'll bet Dennis is one of those who was blasting Bush from late 2002 on about how Iran and North Korea were (are) much bigger threats to the US than Iraq. The memo from Markos must be ready to go out to the moonbats by now.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 15, 2006 11:58 PM