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Iranians' anger is fuelled by 'Rich Kids'

November 24, 2016 23:18

"Never mind what the politicians say. What are the real aspirations of the people of Iran for their country?", I am often asked.

Let me start by telling you what is not their aspiration: to see a small group of young and - probably - politically well-connected people from the affluent parts of Tehran shamelessly show off their extreme wealth on the Instagram page: "The Rich Kids of Tehran". The pictures were presented by the international press as an "alternative" vision of life in Iran's capital.

According to official Iranian government figures, 31 per cent of the population (23 million out of 77 million) are living under the poverty line. The real figure is believed to be higher. Poverty has pushed up drug use and, with it, the number of prostitutes.

So you really need to be shameless to post pictures of your Rolex watches and Porsches while your compatriots are being crushed by poverty.

The 1979 revolution was also fuelled by popular anger among the poor over displays of extreme wealth on the streets and in the media.

In 1979, the people believed that the revolution, headed by Ayatollah Khomeini, would put an end to that yawning divide.

"The Rich Kids of Tehran" is one of the clearest signs that the revolution has failed. Make no mistake, social justice will be one of the main rallying cries in the next revolution, whenever it happens.

For now, there is little hope that President Hassan Rouhani can fix this. Corruption is endemic. Mr Rouhani's own boss, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, is sitting on a reported $95bn. How can Mr Rouhani fight corruption when Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards are running some of the most corrupt institutions and firms in Iran?

For now, Mr Rouhani has improved the economy with better planning and management. The limited removal of some of the sanctions has brought a very small uptick for some industries.

To pull Iran's economy out of its current downward spiral and to provide a real boost, the sanctions will need to be removed. For that to happen, Mr Rouhani will need the support of conservative hardliners to make serious compromises at the nuclear talks.

There is a possibility that this may not happen. Not after the Supreme Leader stated publicly that an agreement must ultimately allow Iran to increase its current uranium enrichment production capacity by more than 20 times.

This is unacceptable to the Western group that is negotiating with Iran.

Once sanctions are factored in, Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium must be one of the most costly chemical products in the world. In 1979, the people of Iran did not have a revolution to see a tiny group of well-connected individuals and a few stockpiles of uranium enriched more than they themselves.

November 24, 2016 23:18

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