If you have a strong stomach, look through the Omid database.
2. It’s Ranked Not Free
Only a tad freer than China and Zimbabwe – here’s why (WSJ subscription):
The Supreme Leader wields autocratic power and reigns for life. The Guardian Council selects who can run for office. Before the 2005 elections, this clerical council disqualified more than 1,000 candidates, allowing the public to choose from only eight, all of whom endorsed theocracy and opposed far-reaching reform.
Ordinary Iranians ignore the sham: While the Iranian government claims 50% voter turnout, Iranian pilgrims in Iraq say it was less than 20%. Contrast that with Iraq, where 70% of the population braves bombs and bullets to vote.
3. It’s Ranked The World’s Second Least-Free Economy
Iran’s economy is marked by a bloated, inefficient state sector, over reliance on the oil sector, and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale – workshops, farming, and services.
4. It’s Industrially Weak
The import-dependent industrial sector is further plagued by low labour productivity, lack of foreign exchange, and shortages of raw materials and spare parts.
5. It’s More Corrupt Than Mexico
Oil – consumption: 1.425 million bbl/day (2003 est.)
Oil – exports: 2.5 million bbl/day (2004 est.)
7. It Imports From The Weasels, Plus Italy and South Korea
Germany 12.8%, France 8.3%, Italy 7.7%, China 7.2%, UAE 7.2%, South Korea 6.1%, Russia 5.4% (2004)
8. It Exports (Oil)
Japan 18.4%, China 9.7%, Italy 6%, South Africa 5.8%, South Korea 5.4%, Taiwan 4.6%, Turkey 4.4%, Netherlands 4% (2004)
Some time ago, I lived…in Peru. I have also worked in the Eastern bloc countries, so I am used to seeing extreme poverty and the mindless ugliness of socialist economies. Here, though, just 30 minutes from the wealth of the United Arab Emirates, was a brutal poverty and ugliness which – in a country that produces three-and-a-half million barrels of oil a day – was obscene.
10. Most Iranians Have Lost Faith In The Mullahs (WSJ, subscription):
Iran’s youth want no more to live under theocracy than do Americans or Europeans. Iran Institute for Democracy telephone polls sampling opinion in every Tehran neighborhood suggest that 80% of the population have lost faith in the Islamic Republic.
11. Most Iranians Don’t Hate Israel (WSJ subscription):
While the Iran-Iraq War killed hundreds of thousands, Iran and Israel have never exchanged a single shot. Many Iranians express pride that Israeli president Moshe Katsav was born in Iran. Indeed, the real ire of ordinary Iranians is expressed toward their government, not the outside world. In a 2002 labor protest, workers demanding back pay marched through Tehran, chanting, “Forget about Palestine and think about us.”
12. Its Military Is Weak
One third as powerful as Israel’s:
(measured by) a combination of the quantity and quality of manpower, equipment and weapons…multiplied by…an efficiency rating.
Its navy is poorly equipped:
The Iranian navy has been suffering from years of neglect. Its major units are mostly old, and replacing them will be expensive. Neglect of a navy can take a while to show signs, but once the signs have shown, making things good will be expensive – a lesson the mullahs are learning the hard way.
Its airforce is ramshackle but viable (they have some old F-14s):
Iran’s Air Force is held together by ingenuity a lot of scrounging, and they have also been upgrading their force with modern Russian aircraft. Iranian ingenuity has allowed them to keep their air force as a viable force.
13. But Individual Iranians Are Smart
For example, in the US in the 1950s an Iranian metallurgist made one of the key contributions to the design of the wildly successful TRIGA ultra-safe reactor.