Three countries along the Shia crescent – historically under Iranian control or influence – have been in turmoil because of high-tension popular movements. Uprisings have moved to Iran after eruptions in Lebanon and Iraq. Prior to that and to this day, Syria, the centerpiece, has been at war from without and from within.
It’s unclear what madness drove the leadership of Iran to its controversial decision to ration fuel and raise prices by 50 percent.
It’s unclear what madness drove the leadership of Iran to its controversial decision to ration fuel and raise prices by 50 percent at such a delicate and sensitive time. Iranian citizens are trapped between the rock of an American siege and the hard place of substandard economic policies.
The country is additionally on the verge of parliamentary elections, so this kind of decision favors only “hawks” and hardliners. More importantly, the Iranian Parliament had previously rejected similar proposals for fear of popular anger against the government and strains on an economy already suffering from both inflation and deflation—a rare combination in the worlds of economics, business, and finance.
Strangely, the decision, which would have usually been issued by the executive branch of government, was drafted by the three branches of state authority. The judiciary branch’s involvement with such matters in particular raises questions.
Despite demands by members of parliament (MPs), politicians, and religious authorities for retraction, the government stuck with the act and the Supreme Council for Economic Coordination was requested to convene to approve it.
The fuel price hike in Iran is somewhat similar to the decision to impose a “WhatsApp tax” in Lebanon.
The fuel price hike in Iran is somewhat similar to the decision to impose a “WhatsApp tax” in Lebanon—the tipping point or the straw that broke the camel’s back. Angry protests broke out across cities, accompanied by violence, dead bodies, and civil unrest. Open conflict again broke out between government and centers of power. All this while President Donald Trump, standing from a distance, boasts: “Didn’t I tell you what sanctions would do?”
Extraordinarily, that such a ruling was issued by a country sitting atop a sea of oil. Only a few days prior, President Hassan Rouhani had been telling Iranians about the discovery of an oil field in Khuzestan with 53 billion barrels of oil—a few generations’ worth.
This raises an obvious question: How can people living near a running river go thirsty? Does Iran lack oil refineries, and if so, why did it not expand its refining capabilities while it succeeded in developing advanced nuclear, space, and missile programs all while under siege and despite sanctions? What is Iran doing with its vast oil reserves, of which it is unable to export more than a few hundred thousand barrels a day?
The “fuel crisis” is likely to provide additional openings for all Iran’s opponents, at home and abroad, to settle accounts. It is likely that many nursing grievances will use this window of opportunity to undermine the regime and impose choices on it, which the regime did not want, resisted, and paid an exorbitant price to bring down.
It’s unknown how the “fuel crisis” in Iran will end, nor how developments in Lebanon and Iraq will unfold. But it is certain that Iran, its allies, and its “crescent” are not in a good place today. And that the greatest threat to the stability of this axis and its regional influence has come from somewhere unexpected: internally, from under its skin.