Power hungry

When Iran's energy needs reach crisis point it will have to reach out to the West.

Ahmadinejad 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Ahmadinejad 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Even without tough sanctions, Iran's infrastructure seems to be falling apart. It's somewhat embarrassing when President Ahmadinejad praises the recent launch of Iran's satellite as a scientific leap, while his government is doing such a lousy job of running the country's infrastructure (and, as it later turned out, with the satellite as well). The problems with the electricity sector are a major example. Although sanctions are responsible to a small degree, mismanagement and corruption among Iran's ruling elite are greater factors. Every day, Teheran is without power for two hours. Although advance notice is given, a city of 10 million people cannot suddenly stop functioning without consequences. As a result, Teheran's economy is taking a major hit. One example is bookings for dentists, which have gone down because people don't want to go under sedation only for the dentist to discover that he can't operate his tools. Traffic is similarly chaotic. Often people wait for a traffic light only to see it go out in a power cut. Much like drivers in Israel, Iranian drivers have an obsession about not being seen as suckers. Hundreds of cars all compete to be the first one out, creating massive gridlock. According to the Iranian news agency Tabnak, people have stopped using elevators because so many have been stuck in them due to power outages. There are also water outages, causing conditions to be yet more unbearable. ACCORDING TO Advar news, 70 people from a Teheran satellite town near Varamin demonstrated against the authorities last week. One can safely guess that in terms of number of people being fed up with the situation, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Iran's plans to build extra nuclear power stations would theoretically help, but not solve all the country's energy problems. For example, when the Bushehr power plant starts operations, it will only resolve 50% of the shortfall in energy production. Other power plants are likely to take longer to build, due to sanctions. Therefore the shortfall will remain for a number of years. With energy demand growing by 8% a year, Iran needs to import foreign technology and know-how to run its energy sector; otherwise its economy will most likely reach crisis point, which might in turn threaten internal stability. This means that the regime will have to markedly improve its relations with the West, especially the US - even to the point of full diplomatic relations. It will have no other choice. It is not a question of if, but when. The more important question is: will this crisis point arrive before the administration reaches it nuclear weapons goal or after? If before, then sanction and diplomacy will have a much better chance. However, with the price of oil at record highs, enabling the Iranian government to spend its way out of the crisis for the time being, in all likelihood, rapprochement from Iran will take place after it has the bomb. Meir Javedanfar is the coauthor of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran. He recently started the Middle East Analyst Blog at www.MiddleEastAnalyst.com