[El Espectador, Colombia]



Die Welt, Germany

'Zionist Cigarettes' and the Parlous State of Iran's Economy


"Iranian imports now amount to about $70 billion annually, while smuggled goods amount to about $60 billion. In other words, the amount of contraband and official imports have nearly converged."


By Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh*



Translated By Ulf Behncke


October 30, 2009


Germany - Die Welt - Original Article (Germany)

As Iranian exile newspaper Peykeiran reported on October 26, the volume of Iranian imports during the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has increased immensely. During his first four year term, Iran had more foreign exchange earnings than during the entire 16 years of rule [1981 to 1997] under Presidents Ali Khamenei and Akbar Hashemi


During this first reign of Ahmadinejad, from June 2005 to June 2009, Iran had approximately $339 billion in foreign exchange earnings - with revenue from oil exports alone amounting to approximately $280 billion. That amount was about $43 billion more than the total amount Iran earned under the presidencies of Khamenei and Rafsanjani, emphasized Peykeiran.




Total imports during Ahmadinejad’s first term amounted to around $220 billion. On October 20, Iranian newspaper Ayande reported that non-oil Iranian exports had plummeted dramatically.


Over the last six month alone, non-oil exports shrank by $5 billion. As far as the trade balance is concerned - minus earnings from oil and gas - Iran had a deficit of $18 billion in the first half of the year beginning March 21. 2009 - the start of the Iranian calendar year. Total Iranian imports - minus imports of gas - amounted to $23.7 billion over the last six months, Ayande reports.




As a result of wrong economic policies, unemployment and inflation are on the rise. Citing data from the Iranian Central Bank, Ayande reported on October 28 that last year, 45 percent fewer licenses were issued in domestic manufacturing and construction. This figure clearly demonstrates a shrinking of the domestic economy. Local entrepreneurs lack capital, the middle class is crumbling and increasingly, the economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, taking on a military character that resembles a war economy.




Roozonline [another publication staffed largely by Iranian exiles] reported on October 26 that inflation will continue to heat up, when the Iranian government speeds up the cancelation of state subsidies. Class differences may well widen, polarizing Iranian society even more. The rise in gasoline and electricity prices will make an economically difficult situation even worse.


Iran's pseudo-parliament [the Majlis] introduced a corresponding bill to eliminate subsidies. The law hasn't yet been adopted. But Roozonline forecasts that the law is likely to be adopted soon.




Over the last six months, Among Iran’s best trading partners in non-oil exports were Iraq, leading with about $1.7 billion; China in second place with $1.3 billion; with the United Arab Emirates, India and Afghanistan coming in third, fourth and fifth places, respectively.


Looking at Iranian imports however - excluding gasoline - the order of beneficiaries is different. For these, Ayande only provides percentages: for the last six months, Iran procured 26.45 percent of its imports from the UAE. Germany comes in second place, providing 9.92 percent of all Iranian imports. Imports from China, Korea and Switzerland came in third, fourth and fifth places, respectively. Overall Iranian imports - again, excluding gasoline - amounted to about $70 billion annually, according to Ayande.



As Ayande reported on October 18, during the current Iranian year, the U.S., together with the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India and Thailand exported about 150,000 tons of rice to Iran. In the last month alone, Iran imported 243 tons of rice from the United States. Wheat is another product that once again - had to be imported from the U.S.




On October 21 Ayande reported on the dangers of smuggling “Zionist cigarettes.” This refers to the hugely popular Marlboro brand produced by Phillip Morris. There are about 12 million smokers in Iran, many of whom eagerly consume Marlboro. During a televised debate on the problem of cigarette smuggling, the director of Iran’s tobacco industry held up a pack of Marlboro to the cameras, intending it as a warning. But according to Ayande, the effect was more of an advertisement for Marlboro than a warning. Ayande points out that over the last thirty years, Marlboro conquered the Iranian cigarette market. The director of Iran's tobacco industry admitted that agreements with Marlboro would have been signed long ago if it weren't for rumors that Marlboro belongs to the Phillip Morris Group - rumored to be closely associated with "Zionists."


[Editor's Note: Zionism, a political movement founded by a French Jew named Theodore Hertzel in the late 19th century, grew out of Hertzel's belief that Jews would never be accepted in Europe and that they had to have their own national homeland. The Iranian regime and many other Muslims use the word as a synonym for Israeli policy].    



On October 26, Ayande also reported that Iranian refineries produced 44 million liters of gasoline a day. Of these, 12 million a day are smuggled abroad. Experience shows that in winter, given the cold temperatures in the Kurdish mountains where most of trafficking routes are located, the amount of smuggled goods will drop. In Iran, smugglers, amongst them state officials, are arrested again and again.


Iranian alcohol consumption is rather revealing. Of course [because Islam forbids alcohol consumption] liquor is smuggled into the country. According to Ayande, 200,000 liters of alcohol are smuggled into Iran every day.


Iranian imports now amount to about $70 billion annually, while smuggled goods amount to about $60 billion. In other words, the amount of contraband and official imports have nearly converged.


Fraud has become a major sideline for some Iranian officials: On October 25, Fardanews revealed that about $66 billion in state revenue had simply disappeared.




Given the fact that the Iranian regime is dancing around the West on all matters nuclear, a decision by the U.S. Congress on sanctions against Iranian gasoline suppliers may become more relevant for European governments. In early October, the U.S. Congress voted to impose new sanctions on companies that supply gasoline to Iran. Although Iran is a major oil exporter, it needs to import about 40 percent of its gasoline for consumption [due to a lack of refineries].


*Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh was born on October 20, 1957 in Ludwigsburg, in southern Germany. He's a senior research fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels. He received his PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin. His dissertation, 'The Islamic Republic of Iran: The Rule of Political Islam as a Form of Totalitarianism,' was published in 2003.









































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US November 15, 7:09pm]


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