Iran accepted a U.S. offer last Thursday for direct negotiations about conditions in Iraq. It can be viewed as a historic moment as it is the first time that Iran has agreed to bilateral talks since the United States broke diplomatic relations in 1980 after American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran. Negotiation between these two countries becomes even more interested when we take into consideration that Iranian officials have called the USA “the Great Satan” while Washington still considers Iran to be a member of the so-called axis of evil.
Several bloggers commented on the Iranian government’s decision to hold talks with the US and some of them described the astonishment of fundamentalist students in Iran.
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Shafieyan says [Fa] that fundemetalist students could not believe that their government will negotiate with “Great Satan” about Iraq or any other issue. According to the blogger all perceptions of these students about Iran-USA relations was shattered by the news of the negotiations.
Shafieyan believes that the negotiations are a positive step forward but that they must be carried out in a transparent way to soothe concerns over the content of the negotiations. He adds that fundemetalist students protested in front of presidential and parliamentary buildings. One student asked how Iran can relate to oppressed people after negotiations with the USA following 28 years of silence?
The blogger says that Iranian leader, Ayatholah Khamenie’s announcement about the negotiations was contradicatory and did not leave him convinced that it is a good idea. On one hand, he says, “how can we negotiate with USA?” But on other hand, the Iranian leader announced that the government has accepted negotiations with the USA to remind them their duty in Iraq.
Jomhour reminds [Fa]us that Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of Islamic Republic, described the relationship between Iran and the USA as a sheep and a wolf relationship. Ayatollah Khamenei echoed the same sentiment. The blogger says foundemetalists blocked any improvement in relations between Iran and USA during the eight years of reformist government.
He also discusses the protest demonstrations in front of the presidential and parliamentary buildings where fundemnatlisst students chanted slogans against the Iranian government and speakers criticized Ahmadinejad. The blogger says one of slogans was ‘shame on Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ and another was ‘Iraqi kids, we are ashamed.’
Chinese model and a fragile economy
Many believe that Iran's fragile economy needs foreign capitals to survive and that Iran cannot be attractive to investors without normalising its relationship with the US. Several bloggers have looked at the Iranian economy and some of its problems.
Energynews says [Fa] that the Iranian government announced that foreign banks can become operational in Iran. The blogger says it follows the Chinese model which Iranian commentators have talked about for several years now: repressing political dissidents in the country while fortifying the economy.
The blogger thinks it has become too late for government to imitate the Chinese model. According to the blogger, it is not possible to attract foreign capital by just changing slogans, especially in a country with rampant corruption.
Ali Mazroi, a reformist politician, informs [Fa] us that the government has always talked about fighting poverty and discrimination as its priority, but so far they have not done anything. The blogger adds that economic corruption is becoming worse year after year.
View from Iran talks about government attempts to reduce gasoline consumption in Iran. It seems that Iran, an oil exporter country, imports gasoline at a cost of about 16 billion dollars per year.
In the rationing card scheme, each car receives a rationing card. This means that owning more cars means receiving more subsidized petrol, not less. It’s a bad idea all around. There is no reward for real conservation. It simply continues to reward the wiley and the wealthy. The wealthy because they have more cars and cars that get better mileage and the wiley because buying up old gas-guzzling paykans means getting more cheap gasoline.
Iran does need price reform. Rationing, however, is a recipe for disaster. Instead, the price should go up, contracts should be renegotiated, and salaries should also increase.
The price of gas will make everything more expensive. The price of doing nothing, however, increases every year.
That said, I cannot believe that the card will go into effect this year. There is still hearty debate in Iran’s parliament and there is fear of disrupting the economy further right now.
Afghans in trouble
According to media reports, Tehran has expelled tens of thousands of Afghans from Iran since mid-April in a move Iranian authorities say is aimed at repatriating 1 million unregistered Afghan refugees by March 2008. The government claims that by expelling Afghans, many jobless Iranians will find employment. Several bloggers protested against this policy.
Elnaz, for example, protests [Fa] against the government’s decision to expel Afghan immigrants from the country. The blogger talks about how much Afghans suffered in Iran due to different kinds of discrimination. Elnaz says Afghan kids often aren't given the right to go to school and that Afghans tend to work in very bad conditions with low salary and without any health insurance.
In Kanone Zanan we read [Fa] that more than 240 social and political activists have signed a letter protesting the decision. They argue that the government's rhetoric of expelling Afghans to create more jobs for Iranians is not true. They also are protesting discrimination against Afghans.