With the coming of a new year, many nonprofits, think tanks, and other policy institutions are releasing their annual reports on the state of our world in 2010. Below is a brief “press roundup” of several of the most relevant findings on the nation of Iran.
The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal just released their annual “Index of Economic Freedom” for 2010, ranking Iran the 168th “freest” country in the world and 16th out of 17 countries in the region. From the report:
Protectionism and heavy state involvement in many aspects of economic activity have led to economic stagnation in Iran’s non-oil sector and a lack of overall economic dynamism. A restrictive business and investment environment depresses development of a viable private sector. More than 500 companies are state-owned, and privatization has been negligible in the past year. Business licensing and closure are regulated heavily by an intrusive and inefficient bureaucracy. High tariff rates and non-tariff barriers impede trade and foreign investment. Corruption is rampant, and fair adjudication of property rights cannot be guaranteed…The oil sector accounts for nearly 50 percent of the government budget.
Freedom House published an extensive preview of their “Freedom in the World 2010” report. Iran did not fare much better on this report. “Iran received a downward trend arrow due to strong evidence of fraud in the June 2009 presidential election and the violent suppression of subsequent protests,” says Freedom House. Additionally:
News from the [Middle East] was dominated by the upheaval in Iran, where election rigging, deadly state violence against civilians, and repression of the political opposition were met by a protest movement that impressed the world with its size, courage, commitment to democratic values, and staying power Declines in 2009 brought the portion of the region’s residents who live in ‘Not Free’ societies to 88 percent.
By far the biggest purely geopolitical risk in 2010 comes from Iran. Its government now faces growing pressure on three fronts. At home, the regime has had a tough time since last June’s presidential election; hardliners had initially consolidated, but are now under intensifying pressure as domestic protests continue. Regionally, Tehran has lost considerable influence, with elections in Lebanon turning against Hizbullah, rising Iraqi nationalism making it harder for Tehran to exert influence upon their principal historic competitors, and Iran’s financial outpost in Dubai put at risk by the growing influence of Abu Dhabi.
Over time, if the regime in Tehran remains in power, the Iran danger will become more diffuse and start to look more like North Korea. It’s clearly a significant long-term negative for global stability. Though for Iran itself, by 2011, we’ll probably see a bunch of countries start thinking about how they’d like to start investing there, even as the Western powers seek to prolong sanctions.
Finally, on a somewhat unrelated note, Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an insightful piece for Newsweek on Iran, titled “Enough is Enough.” In the article, Haas concludes:
The United States, European governments, and others should shift their Iran policy toward increasing the prospects for political change. Leaders should speak out for the Iranian people and their rights…So should congressional and world leaders. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards should be singled out for sanctions. Lists of their extensive financial holdings can be published on the Internet. The United States should press the European Union and others not to trade or provide financing to selected entities controlled by the Guards. Just to cite one example: the Revolutionary Guards now own a majority share of Iran’s principal telecommunications firm; no company should furnish it the technology to deny or monitor Internet use.
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