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Iran's vicious cycle

Iran's economy continues to struggle with rising unemployment and high inflation rates. Its foreign policy is making matters worse, as its leaders continue to go up against the international community

Gamal Abdel-Gawad , Wednesday 15 Dec 2010

Iran's foreign policy is unstable despite its bold, determined statements about the country's nuclear rights and the state of Israel. Some in Iran are proud to see their representatives sitting alone, unfazed, across the table from a handful of international delegates, as they try to negotiate Iran's nuclear program. In a setting much like this one, the representative from North Korea, whose people are dying of hunger, strikes a dauntingly similar pose, unmoved as he faces of delegates from five different superpowers.

Iran's nuclear program continues to advance despite the hurdles, but Iran's economy is buckling under the pressure of sanctions. And while Iran's people are doing much better than the citizens of North Korea, unemployment there has reached 12.5 per cent, rapidly becoming the country's greatest challenge. These unemployment rates are further magnified as Iran faces high inflation rates, which have reached 25.3 per cent this year.

When states fail to manage their economy, unemployment and prices soon rise. But Iran's economic woes are also caused by outside factor and not just internal fiscal mismanagement. International sanctions have been placed on it because of its foreign policies, preventing the oil-rich country from reaping rewards.

Iran sends arms to groups fighting authorities in Lebanon and Palestine, proudly framing it within the context of supporting resistance against Israel. Some in the region do believe this, but the numbers of those who buy into Iran's propaganda drops dramatically when the country's weapons are found in the hands of the Houthis in Yemen, or when their weapon shipments are intercepted in Nigeria, on their way to Gambia, a small African state threatened by internal conflicts.

Gambia's situation is just one of many volatile ones in Africa, where ethnic groups battle one another. And it is here in Africa that Iran chooses to supply arms to, effectively taking a match to an already explosive condition. Consequently, the Nigerians collaborating with Iran were stopped and Gambia has severed its ties with Iran. Both countries had filed a complaint, having the matter referred to the UN Security Council.

The Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, went to West Africa to mend fenceswith countries upset with Teheran for its interference with their internal affairs. But while Mottaki was overseas PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad sacked him, delivering an insult to both the top diplomat and to his African hosts.

The power struggles within the regime have seemingly reached a boiling point – the heat was so high they could not even wait for the minister to return home before firing him.

Iran's foreign policy is harming its economy, and the power struggle between Tehran's political players is harming the country's foreign policy. And hence, the vicious cycle. 

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© 2010 Ahram Online.