Iran Won’t Know What Hit It

Via Eurotrib: Iran’s net oil exports are shrinking so much that the government is engaging in desperate measures that will probably cause it to fall. The New York Times has the story:

Some analysts say that if this acute imbalance between stagnant production and rising demand at home continues unchecked, Iran will have no oil left over to export within a decade. Its oil exports, totaling $47 billion last year, account for half the government’s revenue.

(…)

To curb demand, which has been driven in part by subsidies that keep the domestic pump price at a mere 35 cents a gallon, the government plans to begin rationing gasoline in March, a measure so unpopular, and potentially explosive, that rationing plans have been put off several times in the past.

If Ahmadinejad were serious about staying in power, he’d put off the plan for a year, and rely on overproduction, just like the Shah did in the 1970s. In such a situation, a smart US President would wait for Iran’s oil production to plummet and then engage in minor diplomatic action to ensure that the post-revolutionary government would be pro-American. However, Bush isn’t a smart President, and his advisors are not a smart administration; they’re likely to bomb either way.

It seems almost as if Ahmadinejad is trying to ensure the regime collapses before the US has any time to bomb. If he can wait it out two more years, Bush’s hotheadedness and Congress’s spinelessness will secure his regime indefinitely. The US can’t execute an invasion, or at least not a successful one; all it can do is aerially strike, giving just enough impetus to preserve the regime.

Iran’s government is repeating the same mistakes the United States’ did, which led to the crash in Bush’s approval rate. The correct way to wean a gasoline-addicted population is gradually, via either slowly increasing taxes or investing in public transportation. The incorrect way is to ration gas. Peacetime rations have never been conducive to regime support. Regimes that the people are overall satisfied with can get away with it; regimes that have a five-year shelf life can’t.

Iran won’t know what hit it. For a government that got installed when angry mobs threw out the despised, authoritarian Shah who was keeping them in poverty, it has an awfully short memory. It has an authoritarian, despised President who can’t deliver on his economic promises, who’s propped up by an equally authoritarian Supreme Leader who’d be even more despised if he were more public.

I’m willing to stake my entire corpus of posts about the Middle East on this: barring an American or Israeli attack on Iranian soil, the current regime isn’t going to survive into the 2010s. Far stronger regimes have fallen before the might of popular discontent. A year ago, Ahmadinejad could cover up his unpopularity by clamping down on opposition newspapers. Today, he could just as well jail two thirds of the Iranian population.

14 Responses to Iran Won’t Know What Hit It

  1. SLC says:

    Actually, Mr. Levys’ scenario makes the current Iranian regime more dangerous rather then less dangerous if it acquires a nuclear capability. If the mullahs have a nuclear capability and are faced with overthrow, they have nothing to lose by launching a nuclear attack against Israel in order to divert attention from their opponents. In fact, if Mr. Levy argues that an attack by Israel/US now to take out Irans’ nuclear capability will strengthen the regime, then the retaliation from a nuclear attack on Israel by Israel/US will also strengthen the regime. In other words, it’s pay me now or pay me later.

  2. whig says:

    Your forecast graphic is ahistorical and unsupported by anything but fabrication.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    The thing is, it looks like the regime is going to collapse long before it acquires anything approaching serious nuclear capability.

    Besides, it the regime starts a war and loses, it’ll be like Germany after World War Two. If Israel or the US attacks preemptively, however, then it’ll look like the victim.

  4. Ran Halprin says:

    “Bush isn’t a smart President, and his advisors are not a smart administration; they’re likely to bomb either way.” – Bush, I tend to agree. But do you actually claim to be smarter (as well as better informed) then the entire US current regime altogether. Or did it not occur to u that maybe they know things you don’t?

    “The US can’t execute an invasion” – I think the US proved they can execute invasions beautifully… It’s the aftermath of an invasion that’s problematic, but Ahmed et al. won’t be there to see it.

    “it looks like the regime is going to collapse” – The regime is no less stable then 5 years ago, ups and down are common. I don’t think any Muslim regime has ever fallen to the discontent of its masses, they are just too religious for it. Maybe thats why Muslim democracies are scarce.

    Re SLC, good point about pay me now or later…

  5. Alon Levy says:

    But do you actually claim to be smarter (as well as better informed) then the entire US current regime altogether. Or did it not occur to u that maybe they know things you don’t?

    It did. But the Bush administration suffers from an advanced cse of bounded rationality. Cheney is perfectly rational, within certain parameters that cloud his judgment. For example, he’s categorically against talking to regimes he didn’t like. Iran supported the War on Terror until Bush decided it was insufficiently pure and branded it an Axis of Evil state.

    I think the US proved they can execute invasions beautifully… It’s the aftermath of an invasion that’s problematic, but Ahmed et al. won’t be there to see it.

    It doesn’t have the troops for an invasion of Iran. It could, barely, if it withdrew from Iraq, but that’s not happening anytime soon.

    The regime is no less stable then 5 years ago, ups and down are common. I don’t think any Muslim regime has ever fallen to the discontent of its masses, they are just too religious for it. Maybe thats why Muslim democracies are scarce.

    Not in Iran. Iran’s been under fundamentalist rule for 28 years. Its people know exactly what it entails, unlike in Palestine or Iraq or Lebanon, where they’re liable to fall prey to Islamist demagogues. They’re educated enough to want faster change than the government is willing to give. They brought down the Shah when he got too repressive; Ahmadinejad’s approval rates are the kind that get dictators assassinated in less stable regimes (the Iranian regime has low regime support, but it has a strong rule of law, unlike Saddam’s Iraq or even Musharraf’s Pakistan).

    Remember: 35 years ago, there wasn’t a single stable Hispanic democracy in the world, and 20 years ago, there wasn’t a single communist regime that had fallen because of popular discontent. Iran has much more in common with Poland of 1987 than with Ukraine of 2004; that it’s the first to pave the way for democratic revolutions in the Middle East is immaterial.

  6. SLC says:

    Re Levy

    The only way the current regime in Iran will be overthrown is if the opposition infiltrates the Army. In the Arab worldl, when the army tells you to go, you go (this also applies to most of the Muslim world as well).

  7. Your forecast graphic is ahistorical and unsupported by anything but fabrication.

    Good ol’ whig, what would we do without his glib dismissals and superbly non-useful analysis.

  8. whig says:

    Tyler, I don’t know, lie more?

  9. Tyler, I don’t know, lie more?

    Yes, because your analysis is so important that it breaks through the obfuscation of the obvious reality that marijuana gives you superpowers. Go home and stop being a bad troll.

  10. whig says:

    It does make music sound better, you know. But enjoy yourself however you like.

  11. It does make music sound better, you know. But enjoy yourself however you like.

    Give me 5 hours worth of good porn and I’m happy.

  12. SLC says:

    Re Whig, DiPietro

    In some fariness, the graphic is based on a projection which might turn out to be inaccurate if new discoveries are made.

  13. Alon Levy says:

    Yes, but lately there aren’t that many discoveries. The greatest potential for increased oil supplies isn’t in the Middle East but in the US, Canada, and Venezuela.

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