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The Neocolonial Iran

A Fasihi | 17.11.2004 17:38 | Analysis | Globalisation | London | World

Lessons from History:

The Neocolonial Iran

The colonial powers of the 19th and early 20th century had one goal in mind in dealing with the underdeveloped countries: Support corrupt governments to buy their countries natural resources as cheaply as possible and sell them back refined products at much higher prices.

For 200 years, textile game was played with India. England would buy cheap cotton from India, send it to Manchester and other factories in England where it was used to make quality textile, and then send the final product back to India to be sold at a high price. Long term deals of 50-70 years were also made with corrupt governments of many other underdeveloped countries for cheap resources.

Iran’s Qajar government similarly made many concessions to the British and the Europeans in the 19th and early 20th century, most notably with our oil resources from which the people of Iran did not see any significant income until the nationalization of oil by Mohammad Mossadeq.

In 1919, during the last years of Ahmad Shahs rule, the English Foreign Minister Lord Curzon forced an agreement upon Iranians where the entire financial dealings, income from taxes and tariffs as well as the military affairs of Iran would be controlled by the British. In turn, England would pay a monthly sum 250,000 Tomans for the affairs of the Qajar government. The then prime minister of Iran, Vosoogh-ol-Doleh as well as his two main ministers and Ahmad Shah himself received a large sum of money as a bribe in order to sign this deal.

Sounds pathetic?

No, not really!!!

What sounds pathetic is the recurrence of the same events 80-100 years later. The resources of Iran are again being auctioned off at very cheap prices for 20-70 years with large bribes and kickbacks going to the signatories. Iran already exports the cheapest oil in the world. The average basket price of Iran’s oil export last year was close to $23!!! Total of France has a 20 year buyback program where it will continue receiving cheap oil as long as the French government supports and maintains the Islamic Republic. Now, China is also entering the game, this time for 70 years. Iran also signed an agreement with Turkey in 1996 to sell gas for the next 20 years. Gas prices are currently 5 times what they were at the time of the agreement. Negotiations on a gas pipeline to India is also underway for a similar deal.

Similarities to 19th century colonialism continue. Remember the example of cotton with India? Today Iran sells its oil at one of the cheapest prices in the world. The oil is sent to European and Asian refineries where after refinement, it’s sold back to Iran in the form of gasoline and jet fuel. In fact, the oil rich nation of Iran is now one of the largest importers of gasoline in the world. Last years budget of Iran had a shortfall of $3 billion dollars for the import of gasoline as the result of increase in the price of oil!!!

Aside from Oil and Gas, similar arrangement are being made to auction off Iran’s resources for 20 or 30 years in telecommunications and cellular phone networks and other major projects in the country.

This doesn’t even end here, for the Islamic Regime is also selling off resources which we barely have for ourselves. In a deal with Kuwait, fresh water poor country of Iran will be forced to sell 300 million cubic meters of fresh water per year!!!

The 1919 Agreement

The events of today aren’t unlike the situation in 1919, except the terms are a little more complicated. But the agreement of 1919 to then largely illiterate population of Iran must have also seemed very complicated.

Just as in Vosoogh –ol-Doleh’s time, the kickbacks and the bribes continue today. We must not forget that for every major deal we hear about in the news involving our resources, a 10% fee is charged by the signatories of the deal. Of that kickback money, a sum goes to Khamenei’s office, Rafsanjani and whoever else who had a say in the deal. This is a common practice within the ruling elite of the Islamic Republic.

After the details of the bribe to Ahmad Shah, Vosoogh-ol-Doleh and his two ministers was leaked to Daily Telegraph in 1919, it was soon known throughout Iran. Newspapers and the public were outraged. In fact, it was this event that led to the coup of 1299 by then “Reza Khan” and the eventual collapse of the Qajar dynasty. Today, the kickbacks and bribes to the regimes elite are a common knowledge in the Iranian circles, people are fed up as they were in 1920, but we just need people to step up and say “We’ve had enough”.

Lessons from History:

If you follow the decline and fall of corrupt governments throughout history, you’ll see the pattern of a very rapid auctioning of countries resources near the regimes collapse. Islamic Republic is now auctioning assets for the next 50-70 years at cheaper and cheaper prices. 15 years ago, this self proclaimed “anti-colonial “ regime wouldn’t consider a 5 year deal with foreigners, much less a 50 year deal.

But another important lesson is to always remember that the elimination of one corrupt regime does not automatically bring about a clean bill of health. In Iran of 1920’s, perhaps only “Reza Khan” could have brought about the vast changes throughout the country as was needed. But the times are over today for ONE strong autocratic ruler to make the changes. Unless the Iran of tomorrow develops an ever changing democratic system with a free press, the officials will continue to take kickbacks to sign foreign deals even in the next regime.

For the tomorrow of Iran, we must not only eliminate this autocratic Islamic regime, but bring about a system where Iranians will continuously change their regime every four years; freely and democratically.

A Fasihi
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