Iran

Hooray for subsidy cuts! Long live higher prices!

A correspondent for The Tehran Bureau reports on “Ahmadinejad’s Big Rally for Subsidy Cuts”:

I went to Ahmadinejad’s big rally-and-fire-spitting extravaganza in Karaj today. It was probably the largest gathering he’s had, so far as his provincial visits go. There were around 22,000 people present. It was also the first time in two decades Sepah, the Revolutionary Guards, provided security for a government rally in full uniform. There were about 250 officers I could count on the ground. Overall, there were about 3,500 security personnel — Sepah, NAJA, Basij — on rooftops, lining the street, at the stadium.

We heard they had spent $100,000 on billboards and banners the previous week for an event that got cancelled for security reasons. They must have spent the same amount this week. That’s a hefty sum in Iran.

Last night, residents of Karaj’s Gohardasht district burnt some of those billboards and banners. Many have been arrested. Gohardasht is considered the heartland of the Greens in Karaj. It is solidly middle class and they are all very militant.

What was striking about the rally today was how phlegmatic the eight to ten thousand people inside the stadium were. Nothing roused them from their stupor. I think the economic crisis is sapping their already dulled spirits.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Public discontent is growing in the wake of a drastic reduction in fuel and food subsidies that has sent prices skyrocketing.

Those who question the reduction have been accused of “economic sedition” meant to undermine the Islamic Republic.

“If anyone wants to abuse the atmosphere that has come about, strict measures will be taken against them,” Ali Mohammad Azad, governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province, told state television Saturday.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jaafari Dowlatabadi acknowledged Sunday that a prominent economist, Fariborz Raisdana, had been arrested because he was trying to “subvert” the subsidy cuts in radio interviews.

Already, there are signs that authorities are preparing the public for a difficult road ahead. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd Tuesday in Karaj, the capital of Alborz, the newly created urban province adjacent to Tehran, that the harsh measures would help Iran overcome poverty and unemployment “in five or six years.”

The Tehran Bureau reported on the reaction of Tehran taxi drivers to the sudden sharp increase in fuel costs. I doubt many of them attended the rally in Karaj.

It will be interesting to see how many Iranians, by contrast, attend the demonstrations against the drastic subsidy cuts. Oh, wait…

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