Zakaria: Iran’s growing state of desperation
ranian Navy boats take part in maneuvers during the 'Velayat-90' navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on January 3, 2012, the end day of ten-day war games. (Getty Images)
January 4th, 2012
11:03 PM ET

Zakaria: Iran’s growing state of desperation

By Fareed Zakaria

The discussion everywhere these days is about Iran’s strength. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner, describes Iran as “the greatest threat that the world faces over the next decade.” He and others are impressed by Iran’s recent declarations about its nuclear capacities and its missile tests. Newt Gingrich has compared the Iranian challenge to the rise of Hitler’s Germany. More measured commentators also see Iran’s rising influence and power across the Middle East.

In fact, the real story is that Iran is weak and getting weaker. Sanctions have pushed its economy into a nose-dive. The political system is fractured and fragmenting. Abroad, its closest ally and the regime of which it is almost the sole supporter - Syria - is itself crumbling. The Persian Gulf monarchies have banded together against Iran and shored up their relations with Washington. Last week, Saudi Arabia closed its largest-ever purchase of U.S. weaponry. Meanwhile, Europe is close to approving even more intense sanctions against Tehran.

The simplest measure of Iran’s strength is its currency. When Barack Obama became president, you could buy 9,700 rials with one dollar. Since then, the dollar has appreciated 60 percent against the rial, meaning you can buy 15,600 rials. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told parliament recently that the latest sanctions were “the most extensive . . . sanctions ever” and that “this is the heaviest economic onslaught on a nation in history . . . every day, all our banking and trade activities and our agreements are being monitored and blocked.” The price of food staples has soared 40 percent the past few months, Reuters reported this week.Tehran’s reaction to the prospect of sanctions that affect its oil exports shows its desperation. In recent days, Iran’s vice president - a figure­head with no power - and one of its admirals threatened to block the Straits of Hormuz, invoking the Persian expression that this would be as easy as “drinking a glass of water.” But a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards - Iran’s crucial power source - quickly backtracked, explaining that Tehran had no intention of blocking the straits. It would be madness to do so because Iran would suffer more than any country. Blocking the straits would result in a total shutdown of Iran’s exports and imports; with 60 percent of Iran’s economy coming from oil exports, it would bring the government to a standstill.

These public disagreements are part of the Iranian political system’s disarray. Just two years ago, Ahmadinejad was allied with the nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now they are adversaries. The reformist bloc, including presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and former president Mohammad Khatami, is also opposed to Ahmadinejad. The clergy are divided and losing power. Above all of them sit the Revolutionary Guards, who are turning Iran’s theocracy into a quasi-military dictatorship. None of this suggests political stability or strength.

Read the rest of my column here.

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Topics: From Fareed • Iran

soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. alsestani wal khameni kelab mojremeen awald mot3a

    نقول لأوغلو لا حياة لمن تنادي فإيران مستمرة في دعم الإجرام الأسدي في سوريا والفتنة الطائفية في لبنان والعراق ولن تتراجع حتى لو استمرت المنطقة في صراع ودمار وظلام لأن سياسة ايران يرسمها أصحاب عمائم لا علاقة لهم بالسياسة والتحضر ولا هم لهم سوى وصايا امام السرداب

    January 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Reply
    • David

      Nobody knows arabic here but it is OK but do not blow up yourself here!!

      January 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
    • John

      I do not know what language is. Anybody can talk to camels?

      January 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Reply
    • Onesmallvoice

      If this alsestani above can't post in English, I only wish that he'd at least post in French so that at least some of us here can read what he's saying, me included!!!

      January 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  2. la3ana allah al shiie3a al kelab

    down with hizboallah down with moqtada al qather down with 3asyeb ahl al haq those are the one who are destroying iran and lebanon, down with evil bashar al kalb, down with nori al haleki al kalb in iraq, all are the evil hands of iran the dark evil empire. all those shiia thugs kelab mojremeen hothalat , fe mazbalt al tareekh. la3ankum allah

    January 5, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
    • David

      fk your allah.

      January 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
      • Onesmallvoice

        Do you realize David, that their allah and our God are one in the same? In fact, Allah is Arabic for Jehovah although the Muslims worship him differently.

        January 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  3. la3ana allah al shiie3a al kelab

    AWALD MOT3A LIERS WITH TAQEYA ALJALABI AL GAWAD, AL PAJAJI, AL JA3FARI AL MOJREM, MOQTADA AL QATHER, AL HALEKI AL GAWAD, AL SESTANI EBN AL MOT3A , WEL HABEL 3AL JARRAR, KHAMENI AHMEDI NEJAD AL KELAB , ALKHAWANA, hizboallah and bashar al asad mojremeen al 3asser. those are the new holako the new criminals IRAQ IRAN AND SYRIAN SHIIA THUGS MUST BE STOPPED THEY ARE THREAT TO THE FREE WORLD , DONT ALLOW THEM IN USA AND CANADA KIK THEM OUT

    January 5, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
    • David

      fc your allah.

      January 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  4. Alan1618

    NOBODY who wants to allow Iran to get a nuke has been able to respond to these arguments:

    Zakaria is well known for minimizing anything negative associated with Muslims and Islam (examples to follow later), and Here you go again!

    For your information, nobody is claiming that Iran is strong and stable. People are saying that Iran may get a nuclear weapon, and that it is INSANE. Can you not understand?

    Why do you refuse to acknowledge that practically every country or culture that has a big Islamic population has to deal with Islamic insanity to a greater or lesser extent? This applies from Pakistan to Iran to Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Syria to Indonesia to Malaysia to India and now even to Europe.

    You are the guy who wrote previously that terrorism was due to poverty, lack of education, etc., while refusing to acknowledge that Bin Laden was worth hundreds of millions or more, Zawahiri was a surgeon, the head of a Mid-East terrorist group was a pediatrician, and various suicide jihadists were engineers, economists, bankers, etc.

    You need to understand that this is the source of our difficulties in Iran:

    Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (the most glorious figure in Shiite Islam, who has a more magnificent memorial than what we have for Lincoln) said:

    "Those who know nothing about Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those people are witless. Islam says: 'Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all!' Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by the infidel? Islam says: 'Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter them.' Islam says: 'Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword.' The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim."

    The TWO THOUSAND highly respected Pakistani clerics who gave their highest honor to Bin Laden in June 2007 were Sunnis.

    This means that both Sunnis and Shiites believe that the SWORD IS THE KEY TO ISLAMIC PARADISE.

    It is tragic that you, Mr. Zakaria, are using your influence to whitewash and downplay everything having to do with Islamic threats.

    The U.S. has already made a gigantic and historic blunder in allowing the Pakis to get nukes. If we make the same blunder with Iran, I think most experts would say that we will be facing a 75% chance of getting nuked by a smuggled bomb. (They already estimate that we have a 50% chance if the Pakis are the only Islamic country with nukes.) Who will the US retaliate against if a smuggled nuke goes off, and both Sunni and Shia crazies are claiming credit to get glory for Allah, while their governments are vigorously denying responsibility?

    You've got use your brain, Mr. Zakaria!

    January 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  5. JAL

    It is about to get bumpy. Regarding Syria, I dont understand why, at this point, there is no UN security council action moving forward with Chinese and Russian support.

    January 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  6. Muhammad

    Fareed you are free to think the way you deem fit. US citizens have the choice of electing in to power who will make matters worst for them within and outside US. For Iran there is nothing new. Neither the sanction no the war threat. Your problem is that you tend to present to your readers and viewers hallucinations as realities of life. Arab leaders may find it difficult to celebrate Iranian military might within the region, but believe or not Iranin leaders are most popular in Arab contries than the Arab or US politicians.whereever Ahmadinejad goes the masses que up to cheer and welcome him. Not same with US and European imperialists.

    January 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Reply
  7. Abhishek

    Wow, I dont know if I have seen this much trash in any internet comments thread before. I can identify at least one Pakistani crazily obsessed with India, some crazy white racists and some fundamentalist Muslims too! Cool down people... India really isnt involved in this Iran issue. Blame anyone you want for this, but not India or Indians. Come on people...show some sense.

    January 5, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Reply
    • Dave

      Then who the fk Fareed Zakaria came from? Not from India...No...He is a too westernaized indian who wanna be an american. funny huh...

      January 5, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  8. Adam

    Everyone talking about how violent and murderous Islam is...take a look through some of your old Testament. Read some of the rules in Leviticus about how violations of laws are to be treated. All societies, all cultures, all mythologies have preached on both times of peace and times of war. Seeing a Christian type "**** your Allah" always tickles me, because all you've done is curse God (remember, Allah being name for God in another language).

    All this religious animosity is just ridiculous, and that's coming from an Agnostic. They preach the same basic principles: be good to others, live as pious as you can, have faith in the divine. Anyone who thinks Christians aren't war-mongering murderous types, look through ANY of the Crusades (The Children's Crusade being my personal favorite). Then look through European history. Then American history. We do a Hell of a lot of killing in the name of God the Merciful.

    January 5, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Reply
  9. Adam

    Or, a second option, you can take those religious texts as parables meant to teach you lessons of life, rather than as strict historical accounts. I also advise against any person using a translated quote from someone, as you don't know who translated it, how good of a translator they are, or what they're intentions behind translating the quote were. It very easily could be heavily mistranslated or blatant fabrications just to prove a certain viewpoint the other person wanted to convey.

    January 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
  10. askn

    U.S. Zionist media shows one sided view. I urge others please try to watch other News Media channels like Russia Today, Al Jazeera English Or Press TV!

    January 5, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  11. Ali Baba, see you after 666 Years @ this Blog site.

    Some thought, if you want be like America-Super, change the Doctrines of Qura'an,
    Pray only Once/Day-the other Four round will be replaced by work,
    Admit America is your Earthly Lord,
    Don't hate America and live accordingly.

    Right away, accept America, as your superior.
    You do need Money, don't you?
    So,..............................................

    January 6, 2012 at 12:55 am | Reply
    • Abhishek

      My middle finger for america. Just India...

      January 6, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
  12. Emeka

    The greatest mistake the Iranian leadership did was to kill demonstrators that were protesting against the fraudulent elections doctored and supported by the Mullahs. This act dented the image of Iran and put a question mark on their sincerity in terms of having an alternative to western style democracy. In my opinion Iran is on its way down as a result of infighting among the different elite

    January 6, 2012 at 3:54 am | Reply
  13. the shiia and iran doing the killing in iraq it was proven

    جيفري فيلتمان نائب وزيرة الخارجية الأمريكية يؤكد اَن قادة العراق السياسيين قادرون على تدارك الازمة الراهنة في البلاد من دون اية مساعدة خارجية
    نبيل العربي يحذر من القضاء على فرص تحقيق مصالحة حقيقية في العراق ويندد بتفجيرات الخميس الدامية
    رئيس اقليم كردستان العراق يشدد على ان الاكراد لن يشاركوا في اي حكومة قائمة على اساس تهميش المكونات العراقية الاخرى
    البارزاني يحذر من انه في حال إستمرت المشاكل السياسية ولم يجد الائتلاف الحاكم برئاسة المالكي حلولا سريعة فإن الاكراد سيقيّمون كل الاحتمالات

    وكلاء المرجع الديني محمد صادق الصدر في النجف يحذرون من مغبة دخول عصائب أهل الحق في العملية السياسية ويتهموها بممارسة القتل حتى اليوم

    وكلاء المرجع الديني محمد صادق الصدر في النجف يحذرون من مغبة دخول عصائب أهل الحق في العملية السياسية ويتهموها بممارسة القتل حتى اليوم
    دبي-الشرقية 7 يناير: حذر عددٌ من وكلاءِ المَرجع الديني مُحمد محمد صادق الصدر في النجف من مغبةِ دخول ِ عصائب أهل الحق في العمليةِ السياسيةمشيرين إلى أن العصائبَ ارتكبت جرائمَ ومازالت تقتل وتُشرد وتُساوم وتَبتز.وقال عددٌ من وكلاء وطلبةِ السيد محمد الصدر في بيان ان الحديثَ عن المقاومة ومواجهةِ القوات المحتلة بعيدٌ كلَ البعد عن عصائبِ أهل الحق وأفعالِها وان العراقيين لن يَنسوْا ما فعلته العصائب من جرائمَ ومازالت تفعل من قتل ٍ وتشريدٍ ومساومة ووصفوهم بأنهم حية ٌ مَلمسُها ناعمٌ وسُمُها قاتل.. واتهم البيان العصائبَ بقتل ِ عددٍ من منتسبي الأجهزة الأمنية في النجف والديوانية بحجةِ حُرمةِ الانتماء فضلا على تنفيذِ 5337 عملية ً استهدفوا فيها الأبرياءَ بضمنِها اغتيالُ النائب عن الكتلة الصدرية صالح العكيلي.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:32 am | Reply
  14. Luiza

    Goli,"Iran is suiroes about rapprochement and its aim is reconciliation..."- Can you please explain what the US would gain from this?

    February 12, 2012 at 1:31 am | Reply
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