Triggering the Next Iranian Revolution (Part II)
How does U.S. policy toward Iran stymie the potential for a democratic, free-market Iranian revolution?
March 15, 2007
Of course, there are alternatives for young Iranians wanting to study in the United States. With doors shut in their collective faces, these students will go elsewhere — India, Russia, China, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil — depriving the United States of their brainpower and their unique perspectives.
What intrigued me the most during my visits to Tehran was how eager the Iranians — at government agencies and in academia, in business and in media — are to learn a lot from us. That is, learning from the post-communist East-Central Europeans and our emerging markets.
At meeting after meeting, conference after conference, interview after interview, I was bombarded with questions: What worked? Why did it work? What failed — and why did it fail?
They were eager to hear not just about the economic theory, but much more so the policy concepts and plans — as well as the political inside story. They were seeking to absorb our experience with economic privatization and restructuring of the government sector.
Iranians widely regard privatization and deregulation not only as fashionable, but as necessary. Interestingly, that conclusion is drawn not only by entrepreneurs, but also within the ruling elite.
That became fully apparent during my most recent working visit to Iran. Influential leaders such as the Secretary General of the Expediency Council, Mohseh Rezaee, and the former Governor of the country's central bank, Majid Ghasem, asked many questions not only about technical matters, but also on the wider implications of the economics and politics of privatization.
In this regard, it is important to note that the process of the denationalization of assets in Iran is to be open to foreign bidders. U.S. companies, though, may find themselves excluded because of irrational U.S. policies.
If that indeed is the U.S. strategy, it should be announced publicly that the current administration plans to leave business opportunities in Iran in their entirety reserved for French, Germans, Italians, Indians and — God forbid! — also Russian and Chinese investors.
Meanwhile, most Iranians take a relaxed view of longstanding U.S. sanctions: “We have been quite accustomed to them for years,” the Chairman of the Iranian Industry and Trade Chamber, A. N. S. Khamoushi, told me.
Despite the current bout of media attention, the sanctions hardly work. Indeed, they are bound to falter in a country rich in natural resources. In fact, Iran's foreign currency reserves exceed $50 billion by many accounts.
Of course, as a Pole, I cannot forget that, a quarter of a century ago, Western countries — led by the United States — imposed economic sanctions against my country.
The Polish government spokesman at the time made it into the history books by saying that, whatever the effect on the population at large, “the government will feed itself.”
And so it did! Sanctions caused much more hardship for the people than for the government, at least for a number of years. However, U.S. sanctions strategists might argue, the old communist regime did collapse at the end of the day, didn’t it?
Yes, indeed it did — but this course of events was due to the gradual, indigenous process of institution building and dialogue between the emerging democratic opposition and the reform-minded sectors of the government.
In short, Poland's revolution was the result of our work — and not of Western sanctions!
As the adage goes, dialogue (and thinking in general) can create miracles, while war usually generates disasters.
Let's face it — that is the real alternative. If we cannot turn Iran's current President and some of its conservative mullahs into good friends, we should resist the temptation to mask our frustration about our own inabilities by turning millions and millions of Iranian professionals and students into foes.
I am convinced that only someone who is not traveling to Iran and is simultaneously gripped by ignorance and arrogance can miss that a kind of “realism revolution” in the socio-economic and culture areas is already well underway in Iran.
While in Tehran, I stopped to reflect on my many conversations with the Iranian people and asked myself: Who is Iran's true friend?
The answer was: “The U.S. of A., of course.” Ever since Ayatollah Khomeini's return from exile in France, nobody has been able to unite this entire nation as much as it is united right now due to the American threat.
In that sense, I can only say, God bless America! For all the world knows that it should rather be the other way around — that Iranians aspire to see the United States as a shining example and inspiration to guide them out of their age of relative darkness.
I am amazed to comprehend how it is possible, given all the smarts and intellectual resources readily at hand in the United States and to the government itself, that so many presumably intelligent people can make so many stupid — and at the end of the day, harmful — decisions for the United States and its people.
And now, the "experts" in Washington, editorial page bosses and think tank pleasers want to gear up to recommit that folly one more time?
That's almost unbearable to believe.
Editor’s Note: You can read Part I here.
Grzegorz W. Kolodko
Former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland Grzegorz W. Kolodko is an intellectual leader and politician, a key architect of Polish economic reforms and a renowned expert on economic policy. In 1989, he took part in historic Round Table negotiations leading to the first post-communist government in Central Europe. While Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance […]