AN ATTEMPT TO OBJECTIVELY ASSESS THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY
There are not many countries on our planet to which the mass media of the whole world would pay so much space and attention as the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). There are many reasons for this: the" unconventional " path of development that the country chose almost three decades ago, its nuclear program, which is given a variety of estimates, its huge oil and gas reserves, which make it an influential player in the international fuel and energy market, and the frank desire of the country's leaders to play a more prominent role both in the both in the Persian Gulf region and in the broader global context. At the same time, both in press publications and in numerous TV and radio programs, including Russian ones, an objective picture of the situation in this country and the processes taking place in it is rarely given. As a result, it is not easy for the so - called "mass" reader, viewer, and listener to get an idea of all this, and therefore to understand the logic and motivation of Iran's behavior in the international arena and the reaction of various countries around the world to it.
The author of this article, an international scholar and specialist in the Middle East, has made an attempt to give a "panorama" of modern Iran based on the extensive information at his disposal, as well as personal impressions from visits to this country. Both the positive aspects of the country's development and the problems and difficulties it faces on the threshold of a new century.
For several years now, some researchers and politicians have called Iran a strategic ally of Russia.1 From our point of view, this is not the case. However, it is obvious that Russian-Iranian relations are currently undergoing significant changes in the direction of improving trade, economic and political contacts.
Iran is approaching the 28th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution with good indicators both in the field of economic development and in terms of foreign policy achievements. The IMF report "Forecasts of economic development in the Middle East and Central Asia regions "notes that in the 1385th" Iranian year " (from March 21, 2006 to March 20, 2007), economic growth in Iran was 4.9%, and in 1386 this figure is estimated at 6%. GDP is expected to reach $ 278.1 billion in 1387 and $ 324.6 billion in the following year. United States dollars. According to the IMF, Iran's GDP grew by 6% in 2007. Iran's GDP per capita in the same year was about $ 3,000. 2
THE CHANGES ARE OBVIOUS. BOTH FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE
Iran is gradually changing, moving more and more away from the strict Islamic norms that were imposed in the country for many years after the 1979 Islamic revolution, including with the help of special services, primarily the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. I note that today the "guards" on the streets are almost invisible.
Of course, Iranians are a religious people, but most of them have never been characterized by a tendency to religious fanaticism. This is also true of the current state of Iranian society. The demands of everyday life often push aside the Islamic strictures that Iranians have always been "creative" about.
In the Tehran metro, you can even see a woman in a car for men (although always accompanied by a male relative). Despite the fact that there is a rule of separate travel for women not only in public transport, but also in taxis. Special taxis for women have appeared in Qom, and in Tehran, women are increasingly using a cheap "shared taxi". However, the authorities still monitor the population's compliance with the norms of Islamic morality. For example, in the country it is impossible to openly use the achievements of the porn industry - for the distribution of products of this kind, you can even lose your life. Sometimes men's hairdressers are closed if they make "obscene" (from the point of view of adherents of Islamic morality) hairstyles.
The Iranian leadership took such a step as opening the country to foreigners. This demonstrates the regime's confidence, at a minimum, in its own strength and stability of the established system. Iran was not a completely closed state before; however, now you can freely travel there for two weeks by obtaining an entry visa at the airport in Tehran or Mashhad. At the same time, movement around the country for foreigners, including Americans, is absolutely free. The only restriction for US citizens is the requirement to travel with an Iranian accompanying guide. This restriction is not very burdensome, but-
since the services of an accompanying person for Americans are quite cheap. The most severe restrictions apply to Israeli citizens. Moreover, while with an Israeli visa in the passport, entry to Iran is officially prohibited.
At the same time, the situation in Iran is far from being as unambiguously favorable as statistics, including data from international organizations, indicate. For example, the inflation rate is quite high. In the current" Iranian year", it was 17.5%, but next year it is planned to reduce inflation to 16.7%3. The country has a high unemployment rate, one of the reasons for which is illegal employment of foreigners. However, as Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ibrahim Nazari Jalali stated at the end of December 2007, the unemployment rate has fallen from 12.3% to 11.2% over the year and is expected to fall to 11% in the near future4. However, official data, as in many other countries, do not fully reflect the real situation.
Note that unemployment does not always mean that there are no jobs in the country. There are jobs available. They are offered to Iranians, but they are not always satisfied with them. This was also the case during the monarchy: there were a lot of job advertisements in the newspapers, training programs were organized, etc., but unemployment did not decrease. Now young people are also offered jobs at many enterprises, but there are few people willing to take them. In Isfahan, the author of this article witnessed how colorful booklets were distributed among young people, which contained information about the benefits for admission to universities for those who are ready to work for several years in state-owned enterprises. There were also printed photos of students who have already entered the university using the benefit. Young people immediately threw booklets in the trash - some did not want to get a higher education at such a price, others simply did not believe in "bait" of this kind.
The authorities, as in the Shah's times, resort to "importing" skilled and unskilled labor used in traditionally unappreciative areas for Iranians, including construction. According to the Department of Employment of Foreign Citizens, there are more than 11 thousand specialists and skilled workers in the country, who came from different countries. As for the unskilled labor force, there is no exact data on its number and can not be, since no records are kept in this area. However, as the management of the same department reported, it issued work permits for up to 6 months to 300 thousand foreign citizens5. No one knows how many people work without such permission...
At the same time, Iranians themselves also go abroad to earn money. In 2006, they transferred more than $ 2 billion to Iran. the dollars they earned. Moreover, there are about half a million highly qualified specialists who live permanently outside the country, which Iran urgently needs and who are not averse to returning home. However, the authorities cannot create working and living conditions for them that they would consider acceptable.6
According to the Majlis Research Center, 3 million Iranians living outside the country have assets of $ 1.3 trillion. 7 The authorities, of course, would like to attract at least some of these funds to solve the economic and social problems of Iran, but they do not know how to do this...
The country's leaders are also concerned about the problem of drug addiction. The Iranian authorities are trying to contain the Afghan drug trafficking that undermines Iranian society, but the issue is too complex for a quick solution, and its severity is not hidden from the public. On the borders of the state there are sometimes real battles of regular military units.
working with drug couriers. Drug addiction is seen in Iran as one of the most dangerous threats to the country's security.
In 2006, information from the Anti-Drug Headquarters was published, according to which over the past almost 11 years, about 22 thousand people have died from the "abuse" of a harmful potion. According to official figures, 45% of prisoners in Iranian prisons are people accused of distributing or using narcotic substances. Officially, the Iranian authorities recognize the presence of 2 million people in the country. drug addicts; international experts agree on the figure of 6 million 8.
The breeding ground of drug addiction is the dissatisfaction of many citizens of the country with their financial situation and social status in society. After the abolition of the monarchy, the population of Iran doubled and now exceeds 70 million people. Overpopulation, which is especially felt in Tehran, is combined with the lack of decent work, low wages, and unsatisfactory social security.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY POOR PEOPLE IN A RICH COUNTRY?
The average monthly salary in the country, according to various sources, now fluctuates in the region of 200-300 dollars. According to official statistics, in 2006 it was equal to $ 2.7 thousand per year9, or $ 225. per month. And the minimum wage of a worker in 2004 was about $ 4 per day10, or only about $ 100. per month. This is extremely small, considering that the prices of many goods and products, as well as utility tariffs in Iran, are steadily increasing.
Iran is not a cheap country to live in. Many Iranians are not able to purchase the goods and services they need at market prices, and so the state created a special social support system for the population after the Islamic Revolution.
In Iran, about 20% of the budget is allocated to social programs. About 120 different foundations and organizations are engaged in charitable activities and implementation of these programs in the country. However, researchers estimate that in 2007, of the 12 million Iranians considered extremely poor, 6 million did not receive any support at all from charitable foundations and organizations.11
Due to the lack of funds for living, Iranians voluntarily limit the number of children in their families. Even far from poor Iranians can't afford children now. More or less well-off Iranians tend to send their grown-up children to study abroad. Including to America, where the exit, in principle, is open. But in order to save money for this, you have to "dodge"in every possible way.
Many Iranians also work part-time in their spare time. Private transportation is widespread. Saving money, people are in no hurry to update their personal fleet - the streets are packed with cars of outdated models, although Iran itself produces good cars and even exports them, including to Russia. But for most Iranians, they are too expensive.
The population of major cities, such as Tehran and Isfahan, has not become more religious since the monarchy. The obligatory veiling of the female part of the population can also not be considered as a symbol of deep faith. The veil is not a hindrance to sinful actions, but it can successfully hide vices, which some people successfully use. Iranians have changed in the sense that they have become less sociable and affable and more concerned with everyday problems. This is very noticeable if we recall, for example, the Iran of the 70s. For example, now a rare motorist will miss a pedestrian at an intersection, although earlier, as a rule, almost every driver allowed a pedestrian to cross the street, and did it with a smile.
Many participants in the revolutionary movement of the 70s did not expect that the mullahs would remain in power for such a long time. Moreover, they were expected to step aside soon after the fall of the monarchy. They were assigned the role of a "torch", whose task was to ignite the revolution and burn in it. Everything, however, turned out to be different...
THE LEADERS ARE STILL LOVED, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS BEFORE
Today, the attitude towards the authorities in Iran is, of course, different than it was under Ayatollah Khomeini. Despite the fact that even at that time it was far from ambiguous. Iranians, for the most part, believed in a "leader" who was able and ready to radically change their financial situation for the better in the near future. At present, people are not just talking about the spread of corruption in the country, but also about the fact that relatives of the ruling mullahs are buying up real estate abroad. Moreover, this property is purchased by them in Western countries at very high prices. If in Russia information about corruption in the highest echelons of power does not surprise anyone, then in the Iranian media it is simply not accepted to write about it.
Despite relatively high macroeconomics-
Both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country's religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have a low level of authority in the economic sphere. According to surveys conducted in the summer of 2007 by the online publications "Ruz" and "Baztab", only 10% of respondents expressed support for the president. 12
One can draw a conclusion about how Iranians relate to the country's leadership by watching local television. The pitiless screen shows how some listeners doze off when the president of the country speaks, or when mules-preachers recite sermons on morality, etc. People no longer fully believe their speeches, as the country continues to social stratification and the gap between rich and poor grows. This can be judged by many indicators, in particular, by real estate prices.
Tehran is still divided into two parts: the poor south and the rich north. After the Islamic Revolution, many of the former "revolutionaries" settled in the north, where housing prices immediately rose significantly. For example, the cost of 1 sq. m. m of living space in northern Tehran currently reaches 10 thousand euros.
For most Iranians, rising prices are a real disaster. Quotas for gasoline consumption had an extremely negative impact on the standard of living of the population, which led to the emergence of a black market for fuel, an increase in the price of goods and services. This caused a natural protest. In the summer of 2007, according to Iranian data, about 750 gas stations were attacked and looted, and there were cases of arson. There are queues for gasoline, which are not uncommon even in Tehran.
There is a widespread view in Iran that the Iranian authorities deliberately did not want to build oil refineries in their country. Corrupt officials of the Islamic regime were personally interested in hindering the implementation of plans to build such plants, since they received their share from gasoline suppliers.
Very unconvincing, to put it mildly, is another point of view (voiced in Moscow by a fairly well-known pro-Iranian functionary), according to which Iran did not build oil refineries because it listened to the advice of the West, which promised guaranteed gasoline supplies to Iran. It is appropriate to recall here that one of the main slogans of the Islamic Revolution is to achieve independence from imports in everything. Especially from fuel supplies. By the way, the existing oil refineries were built by the shah, during which there were no problems with gasoline. Since then, the need for fuel has increased, and the country was not ready for this...
Iran's gasoline rationing program entered its second stage in late 2007. The Iranian authorities have increased the norms of sales of gasoline at preferential prices from 100 liters to 120 liters per month for passenger cars and from 30 liters to 36 liters for motorcycles. On the contrary, gasoline supply rates are reduced for certain classes of vehicles. So, the norm of a passenger car-taxi has been reduced from 800 to 700 liters per month. At the same time, the standards for public transport in rural areas have been significantly increased, where people are relatively well off, but at the same time they are the traditional electorate of religious and political structures.13 It is quite clear, however, that these measures will not fundamentally change the situation in the country with automobile fuel.
When introducing quotas for gasoline, the Iranian leadership referred to the experience of economically developed countries. As an example, Germany was considered, where 3 liters of gasoline per 1 car, despite the fact that its GDP is 10 times higher than that of Iran. Before the introduction of quotas for 1 car in Iran accounted for 11 liters of gasoline per day.
At the same time, the question is being asked in Iran: what were the funds received from the sale of oil spent on and where are they being sent now? Many people compare the situation in Iran to Russia, where officials are also corrupt, but in our country, unlike Iran, the results of using petrodollars are already noticeable: the people feel a significant benefit from the implementation of a number of projects. However, in this case, the specific situation in Iran is important for us, and not an assessment of the situation in Russia.
THERE WILL BE NO RETURN TO THE MONARCHY
Against this background, changes in the reinterpretation of Iranian history are noticeable. Of course, some people remember with nostalgia the relatively recent monarchical past. However, the majority of the population no longer remembers the monarchy and does not want its restoration. At the same time, there is a return of interest in studying this page of history, which the Islamic revolutionary authorities first wanted to uproot. They were even ready to destroy the famous Persepolis, a symbol of the greatness of pre-Islamic Iran.
It is noteworthy that in the Tehran bazaar you can see gold pendants slightly larger than our five-ruble coin with the image of the Shah. This was hardly possible a few years ago. Banknotes and coins with the image of Iranian monarchs are freely sold, which means that there is a demand for such goods. On the other hand, this means that trade in Iran is not guided by ideological attitudes, if they interfere with the work.
It is also strange that in Tehran it is not so easy to buy Ayatollah Khomeini's books " Kashf-e asrar "("Revealing Secrets") and " Ho-
kumat-e eslami " ("Islamic Rule"). They are clearly not in demand, and it takes a lot of time to find a bookstore where these works of the leader of the Islamic Revolution are sold. At the same time, the books of Ali Shariyati (1933-1977), an Islamic ideologue popular among young people (he died before the Islamic Revolution in London under unclear circumstances), and even his works on CD-disks, which the Islamic authorities did not particularly like, because he was against the establishment of the power of mullahs, are sold in all countries. shops on the" book street " of Tehran Engelab opposite the University of Tehran. National consciousness is growing again in the country, and the number of people who critically perceive the country's history and its current reality is increasing.
At the same time, progressive-minded Iranians do not like the policy of the Iranian leadership aimed at supporting the Palestinians and confronting Israel. Not because these people have any special feelings for Jews and Palestinians, but because this policy is at the expense of national interests, since too much money is spent on international Islamic and anti-Israel projects that do not contribute to improving the standard of living of Iranians themselves. Moreover, the money is often spent unaccountably, whereas it could remain in Iran and be used for the benefit of the country. "We are not Arabs," say proponents of this approach. - What do we care about the conflict between Palestinians and Jews? Let them figure it out for themselves... And because of the Palestinians, we have nothing to spoil relations either with the West or with Israel, which has done nothing wrong to our country." It should be noted that such a pragmatic approach was typical of the Shah's politicians, who tried to benefit from the Palestinian-Israeli contradictions.
In this context, a summit of the Caspian littoral states was held in Tehran on October 16, 2007, which was effectively used by the Iranian establishment as a sign of support, which is so lacking for the Iranian regime. To some extent, the summit and the personal presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin had a stabilizing effect on the situation in Iran and provided the current leadership with additional votes of millions of Iranians. At the same time, if the Iranian leadership does not use this chance to raise the standard of living of the population, the system will be forced to rebuild and, perhaps, sacrifice the current president of the country, M. Ahmadinejad, and replace him with a new figure.
The political system of Iran is not afraid of an external threat from the United States. At the same time, this topic is effectively used by the Iranian regime to maintain its position. Despite the fact that the media wrote a lot about the almost inevitable attack of the United States on Iran and even repeatedly named the dates of the invasion, few people in Iran take this information seriously. Moreover, no psychological preparation of Iran for a possible war with the United States is visually observed. And this is quite natural.
There are no really massive anti-Western and anti-American sentiments in Iran for a long time. Of course, in some places loud slogans have been preserved, anti-Western rallies are organized if necessary, etc. The real attitude of Iranians to the United States was succinctly expressed by one Teheran who receives a pension of 400-500 dollars (as a participant in the Iran-Iraq war, who was wounded, he retired at 40). He told the author of these lines: "I'm not shouting: "Death to America!", because my daughter is studying to be a doctor there, and I need to earn money for her education...". Moreover, in the religious center of the country - Qom, there are ayatollahs, i.e. representatives of the highest Shiite clergy, who openly advocate the restoration of relations with the United States.
Iranians have long wanted to overcome their differences with the United States and European states. The society is waiting for the restoration of relations with these countries in full. I have the impression that Western countries will be more welcome in Iran than the presence of Russia, which is historically quite ambiguous or even cautiously negative. Russia cannot yet offer Iran any truly large-scale projects, which, in particular, is evidenced by the insignificant volume of annual trade turnover for two such countries-about $ 2 billion. (as with Kazakhstan). While Iran's trade turnover with Germany is almost $ 25 billion.
THIS STRANGE FRIENDSHIP WITH RUSSIA...
On October 17, 2007, an article was published in an Iranian magazine with the characteristic headline: "Iran's contradictions with America and Europe are a suitable tool for Russia's game." Its author is" member of the Scientific Council of the University " Elahe Kulai. In 2001, Elahe Kulai served as Chairman of the Iran-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Group of the Assembly of the Islamic Council (Majlis). In 2002, she was an observer of the Iranian Parliament in the negotiation process on the Caspian Sea, a member of the Mejlis Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy. Ms. E. Kulai writes that in modern conditions, Iran, due to circumstances, is placed in a very unfavorable position for negotiating the status of the Caspian Sea and protecting its national sovereignty. At the same time, she continues, "...the contradictions between Iran and America and Europe with Iran have turned into a suitable tool for Russia to play with these countries."14
By the way, back in 2001, E. Kulai argued that the main factor determining the development of Russian-Iranian relations is the policy of the West. Speaking as a member of the Iranian parliament and an expert on Russia, she said at the time that "...the close relations between Russia and Iran are a natural consequence of the pressure exerted on us by the West." In addition, she made a very important statement about the Iranian assessment of relations between Russia and Iraq. In her opinion, Iran wants to have leverage to prevent the resumption of close contacts between Russia and Iraq, with which Iran has been at war for eight years. 15
After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime by the Americans, Iran got rid of its regional rival and is trying its best to expand its own influence and presence in the region. Estest-
It is clear that the Iranian leadership does not want to see Russia in Iraq and will do everything to ensure that the Russian Federation is not in this country, which it considers as a sphere of Iranian interests. At the same time, Iran, despite its commitment to Shiism, claims to be a general Muslim leader. The country's leadership is doing its best to smooth out dogmatic contradictions between Sunnis and Shiites, which is very difficult to do, and focuses the attention of the countries of the region on pan-Islamic values, interests and political goals at the global level.
In Iraq, Sunni leaders see Iran as a force even more dangerous than the United States. So believes, for example, Sheikh Majid al-Qaudi, the leader of the organization "Flame of Iraq". He stated that "...Tehran is our real enemy, because it wants to control my country and then the entire Arab world. " 16
At the same time, Iran has long moved closer to Saudi Arabia, which is considered the main US ally in the Persian Gulf and a country with special interests in the region and in Iraq. Moreover, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad performed the Hajj in December 2007 at the personal invitation of King Abdullah II. Under Imam Khomeini, this was impossible to imagine...
Iran pays great attention to cooperation with China. Back in late 2004. Beijing has signed a cooperation agreement with Tehran "for 30 years and $ 70 billion." This agreement provides for the development of the giant gas reserves of Yadaravan by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopek, the construction of petrochemical and gas industry enterprises, as well as the laying of oil and gas pipelines. Under this agreement, the Chinese military construction company NORINCO is to expand the Tehran metro 17, which was built mainly by the Chinese (the metro in the Iranian capital has been operating for 7 years). I must say that the Chinese have successfully used international sanctions against Iran to gain a foothold in the Iranian market.
As for the projects of Russian-Iranian cooperation, they are still not so large-scale and prominent. Take, for example, the contract for the supply of five Tu-204-100 aircraft to Iran. They do not solve the problems of Iran's old and worn-out fleet. In addition, Russia itself almost does not buy its own aircraft, which is extremely important for trading partners and the credibility of the manufacturer of products. There is a project for the supply of Tu-334, Tu-214 passenger aircraft and Kamov civil helicopters to Iran and licensed production in this country. However, negotiations on this issue are still underway, and even if an agreement is reached, there is no reason to hope for rapid positive results. Cooperation projects in the oil and gas sector and in the energy sector are also difficult to consider as profitable for our state and increase its prestige in Iran. The Russian-Iranian project of connecting the Black and Caspian Seas by a canal is grandiose in design. But many of its technical aspects are not yet clear, and most importantly, who will benefit from the project and whether they will benefit at all...
The development of trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Iran is, of course, necessary. However, it needs more precise and detailed tactical and strategic planning.
Of course, it was nice to know that Kazem Jalali, an influential member of the Iranian parliament, called Russia and Iran "strategic partners" in October 2007, saying in an interview with a state TV channel that our countries are now "on the same side of the barricades"18. However, let's be realistic: both we and the Iranians are absolutely clear that Iran will never become a close ally of Russia, and will continue to play on the contradictions of the Russian Federation with other countries, based on its interests. This is natural, and both sides understand it 19.
The Islamic revolution in Iran ended with the death of Imam Khomeini and his closest associates. The country has long returned to the path of developing capitalist relations, gradually freeing itself from the elements of the Islamic revolutionary heritage that prevent this. At the same time, Iran is trying to use the confessional and political component of this heritage to spread its influence not only in the Persian Gulf region, but also beyond its borders. At the same time, the Iranian leadership is ready to cooperate with almost any forces in the international arena, if this will benefit the regime.
These are the current realities that cannot be ignored, including by Russian politicians and diplomats.
Pylev A. I. 1 Iran and Russia as Strategic Allies: history and current situation. 01.02.2003 - http://www.cge.evra-zia.org. islam_2. shtml; Not just a visit / / Continent, N 6 (44), March 29-April 11, 2001 - http://www/continent.kz/2001/06/25.html
2 http ://www.iran.ru/rus/news_iran.php&act=news_by_id& news_ id-48796; http://siteresources.worldbank.org/IRANRXTN/Resources...
5 Overseas Workers Remit Over - Iran Daily. October 22, 2007 - www.iran-daily.com/1386/2971/html/economy.htm
8 Interview of the leadership of the Anti-Drug Headquarters-Jom-huriyeh-eslami, 08.01.2006 / / Mohammady Kamin. Iran Quiet Epidemic
9 Social Protection - http://www.en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Eco-nomy_of Iran
10 Iran News. 22.09.2004 - www.http/iran.ru/rus/print_news.php? news id=23931
11 Social Protection...
Mesamed V. 12 Iran: Petrol crisis - http://mnenia.zahav. ru/ArticlePage.aspx?articleD=3585
13 The second stage of gasoline rationing will start in Iran tomorrow - Iran News. 21.12.2007.
Kulai Elaheh. 14 Эхтелафха йу Иран ба Амрика ва орупа, азбар е монассеб е бази йе русийе. Etemad e Melli. 17.10.2007.
Clover Charles, Dinmore Gue. 15 Iran and Russia to Discuss Caspian Shares - Financial Times. 01.03.2001.
16 Promient Iraqi Tribal Leader says a Truce Between U.S. and Insurgents is Possible - The Associate Press. 23.01.2007.
Indal V. 17 Central Asia, Washington, and Beijing's Geopolitics- 6862
Beeston Richard. 18 Putin's visit puts an end to the introduction of sanctions against Iran - http://www.inopressa.ru/print/ti-mes/2007/ 10/17/09:10/visit
19 Iran should not rely on Russia as an ally - http://www/news/trendaz.com/index.sytml?show
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