March 20, 2010

THE IMMINENT ALLY:

Let's Trade With Iran: Iranians love to shop; Americans love to sell. (Jason Rezaian, March 20, 2010, Slate)

As the latest in a long line of Persian merchants, I know: Iranians are among the world's greatest shoppers.

Those of us who know Iran well understand, yet hate to admit, that the one characteristic that binds Iranians as a people is their love of commerce. And as the country becomes more urbanized, consumerism is on the rise. Since the days when it was one of the main trading posts along the ancient Silk Road, the exchange of goods has been one of the most important ways its people relate to the outside world. And they're good at it.

They are as brand-conscious as any population in the world, and since most of the fun to be had in secular societies is outlawed, shopping, eating out, and just driving around have become national pastimes.

In the posh shopping avenues in northern Tehran, European products such as Diesel jeans, Nivea skin care products, and Lindt chocolates are ubiquitous. In the more working-class sections of the city, knockoff Marlboro and Winston cigarettes and pirated copies of Lost, Prison Break, and 24 are as easy to find as Qurans. Despite soaring inflation and unemployment, Iranians throughout the country are still spending. Even on the most important religious holidays, when shops are forced to close, they reopen after sundown to attend to their customers' desires.

So it's ridiculous that the United States has kept up a series of trade embargoes and sanctions against Iran for the last 30 years. The only thing these commercial restrictions have succeeded in doing is keeping American-made goods out of one of the world's biggest economies, which also happens to be a very liquid one.

What's more, Iran is one of the few remaining countries where American products still have cachet. With almost no marketing effort, America could dominate the import market to the world's 17th-largest economy, which is home to the last 70 million foreigners who put stock in the "Made in USA" label.


The Realists who envision a US-Sunni alliance against Iran misapprehend who our friends are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2010 8:18 AM
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