BASHMAKH, IRAQ: TO GO WITH AFP STORY IN FRENCH BY THIBAULD MALTERRE: A general view shows the Iranian-Iraqi border crossing point of Bashmakh in the Kurdistan province 03 March 2007. The US government often accuses Tehran for smuggling weapons and explosives into Iraq to be distributed to Iraqi insurgents, but at Bashmakh, there is little hope to stop smugglers from getting through. AFP PHOTO/THIBAULD MALTERRE (Photo credit should read THIBAULD MALTERRE/AFP/Getty Images)
Even while Iranian influence grows, inside the country itself there are high unemployment rates and unbearable costs of living. For more than 30 years, the Iranian people have been paying the price of their country's ideological, foreign policy. After all, a large part of Iran’s wealth ends up outside the country, allocated to armed groups in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq – and more recently to those in Yemen and Bahrain.
Over the past three years, the prices of food, clothing and electricity in Iran have risen continuously. Some estimates put the number of unemployed in the country at around 10 million and the number living under the poverty line at 50 million. At the same time, the state has closed in on personal and public freedoms, with “morality police” enforcing strict rules on the streets.
Iraq is a powerful asset to Iran and resources have been allocated in Iraq to ensure it remains that way. Various deals and memoranda of cooperation have been signed over the past few months and the cooperation between the two nations in the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State has been well documented.
Most recently a senior Iranian politician, Ali Younesi, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, angered many Iraqis by saying that, “Iraq is not only a cradle of civilization but also our identity, centre and capital. The separation of the geography of Iran and Iraq is impossible,” an Iranian news agency reported him saying at a Tehran conference on Iranian heritage.
Other translations in the media have put emphasis on the fact that Younesi seemed to be stressing Iranian dominance in Iraq but it is also important to remember that although the speech emphasizes the Iranian plateau, a geographical entity that includes parts of modern-day Iraq, Younesi is specialist in religious affairs and is speaking from the point of Shiite religious history, one Farsi translator told NIQASH. Yet many Iraqis were still angry about it.
But what is the use of a nuclear-powered or weaponised Iran controlling large parts of the Middle East when it's own people are unemployed and unable to buy food? Why should the Iranian people care about ideology when they can't afford fuel or a piece of chicken for dinner?
“The Iranian people are paying a high price,” Siamak Sultanpur, an Iranian political analyst living in the US and writing in Persian, told NIQASH. “The Iranian regime wants to convince the outside world that it is saving lives. But of anyone, it is the Iranian people – more than all others – who are aware that this is a delusion. That's why they despise all the causes their regime says it is defending. It is not going to be possible for Iran to sustain a policy like this, one that starves their own people but feeds foreigners. The Iranian people won't be able to bear the hunger and the lack of job opportunities. They will explode because the growth of political Shiism cannot fill their bellies.”
For years the Iranian people have suffered because of what is going on in Lebanon and in Palestine. Now they are suffering because of what is going on in Syria and Iraq. Iranians don't hate the Lebanese or the Syrians or the Iraqis personally. They hate these countries because their state is spending huge amounts of money to promote a rigid and useless ideology in those places.