Sunday, February 24, 2013

Iran's Nuclear Program brings Middle Class Woes

Last week, world representatives including the United States and China held talks with Iran over the country's continuing nuclear ambitions.  A National Public Radio report outlines how the rule of the game with Iran have changed from attempts to prevent the country from enriching uranium to setting limits on the amount they will produce.  As these talks bring the countries involved no closer to a resolution, extreme economic sanctions continue to take their toll on Iran's populace.  As sanctions tightened once again at the beginning of the month, the standard of living that Iranians have become accustomed to due to oil revenue is steadily falling.  Now, the burgeoning middle class that played such an instrumental role in the 1979 revolution is once more beginning to voice it's feelings of discontent.

When discussing the 1979 Iranian revolution in class, we discussed the political power of the middle class in as authoritarian society.  To summarize, the wealthy in such a society are generally wealthy because they are well connected to the regime and have little to complain about as they are content with the status quo.  Meanwhile, the poor are too concerned with getting by day-to-day to worry about politics.  This leaves the middle class.  Individuals who are mostly well educated, but not connected with the regime enough to to enjoy the status of the wealthy.  The Iranian revolution saw a popular uprising among this middle class making demands of their government and its leadership.

In Iran today, inflation is such that deposits people make into their savings accounts lose ten percent of their value over the course of a year.  When this happens, people do not choose to save their money, instead they want to spend it in order to get the maximum value from it before prices rise once more.  According to a recent Washington Post article, the middle class in Iran constitutes half of the country's population.  This massive majority is no longer able to afford the imported goods they once were and are forced to buy Iranian products, which most judge to be inferior.  Those interviewed in the Post article voiced their frustration over this drop in purchasing power, though they refrained from fully identifying themselves for fear of government persecution.  This begins to reveal the collective sentiment of the middle class in Iran and outlines a clear example of widespread preference falsification throughout the middle class.

Every Iranian citizen knows their economic problems stem from international sanctions against their country's nuclear program.  Whether they blame their own government or the United States, they all recognize the root of the problem.  The issue now is an exercise in history.  Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who was featured in the NPR report, explained that the head of Iran's nuclear program Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has "surrounded himself with sycophants" and is ignoring the voices of the majority population in his country by continuing the actions that brought on the sanctions.  In 1979, the Iranian people collectively voiced their true beliefs and ousted the regime that had ignored them.  Today, the foundation for a similar situation is being laid.

So is Iran on the verge of a popular uprising?  My answer is no.  While the middle class has been forced to give up purchasing luxury goods, their living conditions are still far too acceptable to motivate anyone among them to put their life at risk by demanding change from their rulers.  However, this aggrieved sentiment is part of a larger downward trend that could end up activating the public in Iran if the sanctions continue over a much longer period of time.


Martin, Rachel. "Iran's Nuclear Program Revisited, Again." Weekend Edition Sunday. National Public Radio. 24 Feb. 2013., 24 Feb. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

Rezaian, Jason. "Iran's Middle Class Feels Squeeze of Sanctions." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 24 Feb. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

The Guardian

1 comment:

  1. It is always interesting to see how the middle class plays a role, just like how we have been talking about in class. They have enough income to worry about something bigger than their next meal, and enough free time to protest or change that which will give them a better standard of living. Very interesting article.