The Corner

Iran Street Sours on Nuclear Ambitions

The Telegraph reports that public support for Iran’s expensive nuclear ambitions is beginning to wane as the country’s economy continues to suffer:

When Iran fuels Western alarm over its nuclear ambitions – as it did again yesterday with orders to start construction of new uranium enrichment plants – it has in the past been able to count on widespread domestic support. Even critics and opponent of the regime led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have stood up for Iran’s right to develop nuclear technology.

However there is now increasing resentment that the once popular nuclear programme could be detracting from more urgent needs in the face of economic mismanagement and sanctions.

A Chinese-style construction and consumption boom in the capital Tehran has started to sour. One third of the shops at the Laleh Shopping Centre in central Tehran have closed in recent months. Merchants said demand has held up only cars and mobile phones, where new products are available to replace antiquated models.

Far from resenting the US-designed sanctions, Iranians blame the slowdown on the government. “Nuclear energy is something that I supported but why go about it in this way,” asked Zori Baghi, a pensioner and father of two. “If it is legitimate, then why are we suffering for it in this way. If it’s not legitimate, then do it in the right way or give it up. We’re paying too heavy a price.”

Central Bank of Iran figures reveal a huge drop in financial reserves despite massive earnings from oil exports. In the first nine months of last year foreign exchange holdings dropped $13.8 billion (£9 billion) to $77 billion. Some economists believe that foreign exchange reserves may not cover the annual cost of imports.

Meanwhile Tehran has introduced petrol rationing, curbing the right to buy subsidised petrol for three months. Budget cuts of $20 billion were ordered last month.

Full story here.

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