A Washington Post article today details the back peddling of Iranian hardliners away from diplomacy with the United States. Up the coast, the New York Times reports that Iran has successfully test-fired a “new” missile. Well, what to make of all this? That George W. Bush was right after all? Hardly.
As Matt Duss argues, Iranian blustering must be read in context of the depressive effect falling oil prices have had on Iran’s economy.
The high price of oil — which was partly a consequence of the Iraq war — had enabled Iran to sidestep economic sanctions, but with the recent drop in oil prices Iran is in serious trouble. They’ve got double-digit unemployment, double-digit inflation, there’s a whole generation of young Iranians whose future prospects are very dim. And they are very, very unhappy with their government right now. The missile test should be therefore viewed less as an attempt to “test” the new president-elect, more as an attempt by hardliners to rally Iranians round the flag, as they have done consistently over the past few years, by provoking a crisis to draw attention away from their failure to manage the economy.
Indeed, and as citizens of the United States for the past 8 years, we should be intimately familiar with the tactic of raising the foreign specter to distract from problems on the home front. Oh yeah, and about that missile: independent weapons analysts have wondered why Iran has merely “rejiggered” their old missiles.