Sunday, August 21, 2016

Once Again Iran Produces Disinformation

 

by Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker, D.D.

 

Global Politician, International Analyst Network, 21 December 2010

Canada Free Press,"Iran Continues to Produce Disinformation", 17 December, 2010

 

Abolghasem Bayyenat, reportedly a trade expert for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ministry of Commerce, and admittedly a former political officer in its Foreign Ministry, recently penned an article entitled “Economic Sanctions Against Iran”.[1] In it, he claims that sanctions are counter-productive, causing pain only to the Iranian people and causing the regime further to resist efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the problem of nuclear proliferation. In his essay, Bayyenat suggests that Iran has successfully mitigated most of the effects of the sanctions, and that they are only hurting the innocent Iranian population.

 

Reports from Iran would seem to suggest that the truth is not quite as Bayyenat suggests. Yes, ordinary Iranians are suffering as the sanctions cause economic hardship, and yes, it is unlikely that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime will relent and turn away from its pursuit of nuclear weaponry √°la Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, but to claim that these rounds of increasing sanctions are not affecting the Iranian regime is disingenuous at best. Even before the publication of Bayyenat’s article, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, told the ISNA news agency on Wednesday, July 7th, that the sanctions could have some impact. “We cannot say the sanctions have no effect. Maybe they will slow down the work but they will not stop it, that's certain,” said Salehi.[2] The following day, Reihaneh Mazaheri, an Iranian economic journalist based in Paris, reported that as international sanctions mount, Iran is finding it increasing hard to find buyers for its oil, and is being forced to offer discounts in order to shift as much as it can to a falling number of customers.[3] 

 

One month later Tehran’s chief banker, Mahmoud Bahmani, governor of the Central Bank, told a news conference on August 8th: “Reducing the consumption of imported goods means confronting the sanctions. There is no other way….We need to decrease imports. We should not allow all goods to enter the country.”[4] The following month, September, saw Iran forced to convert petrochemical plants to boost domestic production of gasoline, since traders have curbed supplies of gasoline—Iran depends on imports for about a third of its domestic needs—Tehran was forced to activate an emergency plan to raise domestic production.[5]

 

The week before Bayyenat published his article, The Economist reported that the sanctions “are inexorably adding to the cost and hassle of doing business. Almost all the biggest international traders in refined petroleum products, for instance, have stopped dealing with Iran, forcing the country to rely on costlier small-scale overland shipments for much of the petrol that it still has to import because of underinvestment in refining.

The sanctions have also stemmed the flow of much-needed foreign investment and skills, particularly to the energy sector that accounts for 80% of Iran’s export earnings. …Largely as a result of such setbacks, Iran’s oil ministry is unlikely to hit its targets of raising oil-production capacity by 35% by 2015 and launching exports of liquefied natural gas, concludes a recent report by Nomura, a Japanese stockbroker. Instead, oil output is likely to fall by 15% and exports by as much as 25%.”[6]

 

Now, if we look at reports issued after Bayyenat’s composition, it would seem that the sanctions are indeed causing the Iranian regime difficulties. For example, trade between Dubai and Iran is “suffocating under the ever-tightening grip of sanctions.”[7] Morteza Masoumzadeh, vice president of the Iranian Business Council and managing director of Jumbo Line shipping agency told Reuters: “There is a severe impact on trade between the UAE and Iran due to the current sanctions, particularly on the banking sector. Due to the recent sanctions, the Iranian banks’ operations have come almost to a standstill. They have lost their businesses.”[8] Reuters also reported recently that “Iran is finding it increasingly difficult to access the financial services it needs to run its economy and may lose up to $60 billion in energy investments due to global sanctions.”[9]
The aforementioned Reuters story is backed up by the report that U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey noted in his December 1st testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the U.S. sanctions measures are yielding “dramatic” results. Levey concluded: “As a result of the international community's recent sanctions measures, including CISADA, and of our efforts to publicize Iran’s illicit and deceptive conduct, Iran is feeling the pressure of sanctions as never before.  Iran is struggling to find access to the international financial system, without which it is difficult to run an economy on the scale that a country like Iran needs.”[10]
It would also seem that Mr. Bayyenat either was ignorant of the mid-September remarks of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, current chairman of the Assembly of Experts and longtime chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, or deliberately was trying to refute them. Rafsanjani had told the influential 86-member Assembly of Experts: “We have never been faced with so many sanctions. I would like to ask you and all the country's officials to take the sanctions seriously and not as a joke.”[11]
Economic sanctions, admittedly, will not convince the Iranian regime to cease its pursuit of nuclear arms. Ever stiffer sanctions can make it more difficult for Iran to achieve its goal of joining the nuclear club and serve to help delay its entrance. Sanctions and embargoes, while affecting all Iranians, also serve to inform the Iranian people that the United States is willing to stand up to the tyrannical regime in Tehran. Contrary to that which Bayyenat claims—that sanctions will alienate the Iranian people from America and the West—sanctions and embargoes will demonstrate that the U.S. is willing to pressure the regime and force it to suffer consequences for its rogue behavior. Although not guaranteed, such an American position could serve to encourage the long-suffering, much disgruntled Iranian people to throw off their current corrupt regime.
Evidence that not all is running as smoothly as Bayyenat claims can be seen in the shifting regime policy concerning gasoline rationing. On March 18th of this year, the regime announced that it would start cutting back the supply of subsidized gasoline from 21 gallons to 15 gallons per month per vehicle, starting on March 21st.[12] Six months later, having promised an end to subsidies in order to help the economy, Ahmadinejad reversed himself and delayed the ending of subsidies out of fear of a popular backlash.[13] By the middle of October, Tehran began the risky business of cutting back on subsidies.[14] However, a month later, it once again reversed itself and continued with the subsidies until the end of 2010.[15] Ahmadinejad is still trying to cut the subsidies and reorganize the economy, but he is fighting a very steep uphill battle that risks alienating many of his supporters.[16] Meanwhile, Iranians are experiencing a steadily rising sense of anxiety as they wait for “the other shoe to drop” as regards subsidies.[17] A 700% increase in gasoline prices recently was predicted by some in the Iranian government when subsidies are ended.[18]
This week once again United Nations members noted with grave concern that Iran continues to violate weapons sanctions imposed in 2007.[19] Given Bayyenat’s former position in the Foreign Ministry and his track record of presenting disinformation,[20] one should be careful to read between the lines and see what he is trying to sell to his audience. It also is disconcerting to note that Mr. Bayyenat is back in this country serving as a teaching assistant in the Political Science Department of Syracuse University[21] while pursuing his Ph.D. It seems that American academia still is woefully unaware of the Iranian (and other) wolves in sheep’s clothing. Iran’s VEVAK agents don’t always remain as invisible as they hope, but they definitely continue to be persistent in seeking their goals which include misleading the unwary about the goals and objectives of the Tehran regime.
Postscript: Gasoline prices indeed have risen dramatically (roughly 400%) over this past weekend as the regime phased out its subsidies.[22]
This article is dedicated to the memory of Mehdi Fathi, Iranian patriot and longtime resident of Camp Ashraf, Iraq, who passed away on Friday, 10 December 2010.

Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker, D.D., is founder and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, a grassroots organization dedicated to teaching our elected officials and the public of the dangers posed by Islamic fundamentalism and the need to establish genuine democratic institutions in the Middle-East as an antidote to the venom of fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws.




[1] Abolghasem Bayyenat, “Economic Sanctions Against Iran”, Global Politician, October 14, 2010, http://www.globalpolitician.com/26621-iran-sanctions.

[2] Reuters, “Iran admits sanctions could slow down nuclear programme”, Gulf News, July 8, 2010, http://gulfnews.com/news/region/iran/iran-admits-sanctions-could-slow-down-nuclear-programme-1.651605.

[3]  Reihaneh Mazaheri, “Iran Cuts Oil Prices as Sanctions Bite”, Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IRN Issue 43, July 8, 2010, http://iwpr.net/report-news/iran-cuts-oil-prices-sanctions-bite.

[4] Middle East Online, “Sanctions bite: Iran to cut imports”, Middle East Online, August 8, 2010, http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=40464.

[5] Roula Khalaf, “No compromise as sanctions bite in Iran”, Financial Times, September 16, 2010, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0173519c-c1af-11df-9d90-00144feab49a.html#axzz17xJozkH0.

[6] “Iran's economy: Sanctions begin to bite”, The Economist, October 7, 2010, http://www.economist.com/node/17204603.

[7] Martina Fuchs, “Sanctions squeeze Dubai's trade with Iran”, Reuters, November 24, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AN2UV20101124.

[8] Ibid.
[9] Reuters, “U.S.: Sanctions costing Iran investment, banking access”, The Daily Star, December 2, 2010, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=3&article_id=122076#axzz17xttoOEk.

[10] “Written testimony by Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 1, 2010. Available at http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/TG985.aspx and cited as footnote # 207 in Varun Vira, John Karian, David Pupkin, Stephen Szrom, Maseh Zarif, Daniel Katz, Sanctions on Iran: Reactions and Impact”, AEI Iran Tracker, December 8, 2010, http://www.irantracker.org/us-policy/sanctions-iran-reactions-and-impact.

[13] Robin Pomeroy, “Iran delays phasing out gasoline subsidies”, Reuters, September 16, 2010, http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2010/09/16/iran-delays-phasing-gasoline-subsidies/.
[14] Jay Solomon and Farnaz Fassihi, “Iran to pare food, gasoline subsidies”, Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2010, http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22048:iran-to-pare-food-gas-subsidies-&catid=31:economy&Itemid=46.
[15]Iran to extend fuel subsidies through December”, World Tribune, November 23, 2010, http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2010/me_oil1161_11_23.asp.

[16] Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran Confronts an ‘Economic Evolution’: Ahmadinejad's Plan to Curb Government Subsidies Threatens to Alienate Recipients”, The Washington Post, December 4, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/03/AR2008120304230.html?sid=ST2008120402515.

[17] Mosen Asgari, “Increased security as Iran’s subsidy programme bites”, BBC, November 9, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11685293. See also: Semira N. Nikou, “Tehran Bureau: High Anxiety over Falling Subsidies”, Frontline, November 15, 2010, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/11/high-anxiety-over-falling-subsidies.html.

[18] Ramin Mostafavi, “UPDATE 1-Iran denies 700 pct gasoline price hike plan”, Reuters, December 1, 2010, http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFMOS14182220101201?sp=true.

[19] Special Reports, “‘Grave concern’ stated over Iran’s weapons”, UPI, December 13, 2010, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2010/12/13/Grave-concern-stated-over-Irans-weapons/UPI-86421292262889/.

[20] Abolghasem Bayyenat, “Is regime change possible in Iran?”, Global Politician, April 23, 2006, http://www.globalpolitician.com/print.asp?id=1738; see my critical analysis of his article in Daniel M. Zucker, “Iran’s VEVAK: Disinformation, Inc.”, International Analyst Network, September 17, 2006, http://www.analyst-network.com/article.php?art_id=364.

[21] See the following course syllabus: James B. Bennett, “Making Foreign Policy”, Syracuse University, http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/jbennett/359s10/silly359s10.html.

[22] Ladane Nasseri and Caroline Alexander, “Iran Cuts Energy Subsidies as Sanctions Take Toll, Gasoline Prices Soar”, Bloomberg, December 19, 2010, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-19/iran-begins-cutting-energy-subsidies-as-united-nations-sanctions-take-toll.html.  Also see: Benjamin Weinthal, “Sanctions Are Hurting Iran’s Regime, but Not Enough”, National Review Online, December 20, 2010, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/255691/sanctions-are-hurting-irans-regime-not-enough-benjamin-weinthal,  Scott Peterson, “Ahmadinejad cuts subsidies, quadrupling price of gas”,  Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2010, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/1220/Ahmadinejad-cuts-Iranian-subsidies-quadrupling-the-price-of-gas, and Robert Tait, “Economists Say Iran Subsidy Plan a Weapon of Political Control”, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, December 20, 2010, http://www.rferl.org/content/economy_iran_subsidy_plan_weapon_against_opposition/2254168.html.


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