Sunday, October 16, 2005

Gasoline, the Silent Bomb

Shahram Rafizadeh, Rooz Online: a "reformist" website
The Iranian government has offered a new bill to the parliament (Majlis) to increase the price of gasoline in an effort to increase its income for possible economic sanctions that may be coming if Iran’s nuclear case goes to the U.N. Security Council. At the same time, the Ministry of Intelligence has once again sent a 10-year old report to the country's National Security Council. The report that was prepared during Hashemi Rafsanjani's presidency, reviews possibilities of civil uprising in case of an increase in gasoline price. Ten years ago, following Islamshahr civil unrests, Rafsanjani's government decided not to remove the fuel subsidies that caused the riots.

Reports from Tehran indicate that two meetings between high ranking intelligence authorities and those from the National Security Council have reviewed the crisis. It is also reported that Majlis MPs have been advised not to veto the gas price hike bill. Such measures bring to light what a political sociologist, who has requested to remain anonymous, has anticipated. According to him, if and when imposed economic sanctions hit Iran, gasoline imports could halt and the result would definitely be civil unrest. READ MORE

The first part of this bill was ratified with 171 affirmative votes from the MPs that support the new ultra-conservative government. The bill allows the government to use $1.5 million of its foreign reserve funds to compensate its budget deficit to import gasoline. The second part of the bill is a crucial one that allows the government to impose two gasoline rates to cut its import and balance the gasoline consumption in the country.

Ahmadinejad's election promises to eradicate poverty in the country and improve Iranians living standards can not be fulfilled when the government announces gasoline price hikes. While Iran is one of the world's largest oil exporters, its daily consumption of more than 60 million liters of gasoline has turned Iran into one of the largest gasoline importers in the world. Iranian refineries produce an average of 38.5 million liters of gasoline per day. The country also imports about 26 million liters of gasoline per day, which are expected to rise to 30 million. But despite the considerable increase in gasoline consumption, the country has not increased its domestic production of gasoline.

A senior expert in Iran's planning organization says that before Iran's 1979 revolution, the country not only was needless of gasoline imports but even exported more than 600,000 liters per day to its neighbors.

Amir Mohebian, a conservative analyst criticizes the Ministry of Oil's officials and their approach towards gasoline crisis and believes that gasoline is Iran's weak point that United States is using to put more pressure on Iran and the impact of the sanctions over the country's possible social unrest.

Under tremendous international pressure of possible economic sanctions, Iran has once again forced Ahmadinejad's economists to confront the crisis. During Khatami's presidency, conservative Abadgaran supporters tried to establish a fixed rate for gasoline in a measure to attract public's interest. An Ahmadinejad economic expert told Rooz that a strategic product is turning into a social bomb. This is bomb that is trying to prevent Iran's nuclear activities.