… the currency took a nosedive, and a critical constituency is mad as hell (Spectator, UK, apologies to Shiraz Maher for the link scrape):
Thousands of Iranians took to the streets this week to protest inflation and the collapse of Iranian currency on international markets. Tehran’s historic Grand Bazaar closed for business with many of its merchants leading the demonstrations.
This will worry the government because traders there are normally seen as bridging the gap between clerics and Iran’s influential mercantile classes. The atmosphere inside the Bazaar is a useful barometer of Iranian political discontent.
During the abortive Green Revolution in 2009 which challenged Ahmadinejad’s re-election, merchants from the Grand Bazaar offered only muted support. In 1979 they swung decisively behind the Islamic Revolution and helped unseat the Shah, having previously secured concessions from the monarchy a century earlier.
Although Ahmadinejad tried to contain the protests by ordering shop keepers to open their stores today, most have stayed closed. Posters declaring ‘Leave Syria alone, think of us instead’ have sprung up around the Bazaar.
This is the sort of thing a nuclear weapon and naval-gazing Washington … can’t stop. Economic mismanagement is, in reality, what set off the “Arab Spring” in North Africa; it could easily create a Persian Autumn of Discontent.
If the regime makes it through to next year, look for the regime to search for someone – anyone - to paper over the differences and talk a good game on economic reform to run for President in the spring of 2013 (the mullahs must clear any and all candidates for office before they’re allowed on a ballot). That could buy them some time…but not much. Not even a nuclear-armed Iran can resist an angry, impoverished populace.
Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon