Iran's desperate call for "economic jihad"

Iran's call for "economic jihad" points to serious concerns held by Iranian authorities

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Wahied Wahdat-Hagh
On 21 February 2013 15:54

Thanks to sanctions, it has become harder for the Iranian regime to acquire weapons and military technology in the west. But not impossible. As Spiegel Online reported, the German Attorney General has brought charges against a German-Iranian merchant, who exported aircraft engines for military drones to Tehran. His accomplice in Tehran predictably sold them to the Revolutionary Guards.

This is not a unique incident. Indeed, a new study of the Majlis, the Iranian pseudo-Parliament, explicitly recommends using the private sector to circumvent sanctions and to import prohibited goods to Iran:

"The easiest way to circumvent the sanctions is when a businessman changes name and address of the company, which is affected by the sanctions. Thus, foreign agents may be used for the import of products and advanced technologies... The growth of the private sector can be effective to a certain extent in case of circumventing the sanctions, because sanctions are usually attacking the state and the private sector can continue to enjoy the benefits of trade."

Incidentally, this arm of Iranian “parliament”, which encourages fraud, is also the arm which has the best relations with German and other European parliamentarians. These European politicians may now learn what their Iranian interlocutors think about sincerity and confidence-building measures.

The authors of the official Majlis study consider fraud to be a pious enterprise, even a religious duty. The report stresses that the U.S. government is responsible for the sanctions and propagates "economic resistance", or even "economic jihad", as a suitable response.

It was in fact the supreme leader of the Islamic revolution, Ali Khamenei, who founded these terms. But the Scientific Department of the Majlis explains in the report what has to be done. Under Islamic law, it reads, "any form of domination of infidels over Muslims in any field, political, social, cultural, economic and military, is not allowed.”

In continues: "unfortunately, there is a foreign economy, which rules over the Muslims. This bitter truth results from the fact that the Muslims do not act in accordance with their religious duties. "

This flagrant disregard for international law highlights an interesting, though problematic, reality: Only one law counts to Iran’s leadership and this is the Islamic law, the last divine truth, as they assume.

The report therefore indicates that it is the Iranian government's right and responsibility to act internationally to block and to stop the sanctions. It is proposed, for example, that the Iranian insurance system for export goods, especially oil tankers, should be improved, so that in case of sanctions, the oil tanker company has good and internationally-recognised insurance. The Iranian government should also ensure that no other oil states cooperate with the United States.

Furthermore, the study recommends reducing the consumption of the population. Unemployment, it argues, must be reduced in order to strengthen the "economic Jihad". Similarly, it is suggested that brain drain – that is, emigration of skilled labour – should also be actively reduced. Chillingly, it compares well-educated Iranians leaving the country to officers going AWOL from a “combat zone”.

Externally, the report urges the Iranian regime to do everything possible to ensure that no more states participate in the sanctions regime. For example, it is suggested that, in Europe, the likes of Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland could be converged to weaken the front of hostile states. The authors of the study stress that a "precise identification of the potential and objective enemy" is very important and an integral component "economic resistance.”

The reality is that, right now, the economic and social situation in Iran is disastrous. This is not denied completely, even by state propaganda.

Iranian Students’ News Agency, for example, wrote on February 18th that Iran "has 30 million illiterate and less literate people." Meanwhile, Radio Farda reported on February 20th that there is a total 1.375 million drug addicts in Iran, 20 percent of which are women, commenting also on the linked prostitution problem which thrives in the Islamic Republic.

The call for "economic jihad" therefore points to serious concerns held by Iranian authorities. It seems unlikely, however, that, even with the help of fraud, the current regime will be able to solve the social and economic problems of Iran.

Wahied Wahdat-Hagh is a Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy

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