Amuzegar's postscript to his January/February 2003 essay "Iran's Crumbling Revolution."
Nearly a quarter-century after the revolution, economic failure and a bankrupt ideology have discredited the Islamic Republic. Despite the attention paid to a clash between "reformers" and "conservatives" in the government, the real story in Iran is the growing discontent among the generation born after 1979. This "Third Force" will eventually topple the regime, and the United States should just watch and wait.
The next great oil boom is on: four former Soviet republics on the Caspian Sea are sitting atop an economic bonanza. But they should remember the fate of OPEC, whose members squandered their 1970s windfall. Where did all the money go? The state took on too dominant an economic role and wasted the wealth at home in a rash of boondoggle projects and military buildups. All OPEC members came down with "quick-money fever." They became addicted to supposedly limitless oil revenues even as boom turned to bust. The Caspian states, too, risk going from riches to rags if they do not resist the temptations of petromania.
Economic bans and political invective against Iran have not worked. America, not the Islamic Republic, has become isolated. Meanwhile, both because sanctions are leaky and because they have pushed it to become more self-sufficient, Iran is actually doing better than many countries the United States has assisted. The sanctions also give the Islamic regime a scapegoat for its serious problems at home, merely prolonging its hold on power. The United States should abandon containment for a strategy of critical dialogue.
For nearly a decade now, the spotlighted fortunes of some oil-exporting countries have been a focus of global interest. Raw materials exporters among the less-developed countries have dreamed of being able one day to establish a producers' association similar to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The industrial powers have helplessly watched their political clout and economic affluence dwindle before the kingdom of oil. The capital-short and aspiring Third World planners have kept telling themselves (and each other) that if only they had this black gold, the magical élan vital for their economic takeoff would be close at hand.
The sustained and alarming depreciation of the U.S. dollar against some major European currencies and the Japanese yen during 1977 and the early part of 1978 has ushered in a new element of instability in the shaky international monetary system. One of the most critical effects of the dollar devaluation has been a new and unwelcome pressure on the real price of crude oil, which has been steadily shrinking since 1973 (despite the two 10-percent-upward adjustments in October 1975 and December 1976).
In the early hours of June 3, 1977, the Conference on International Economic Cooperation (CIEC) came to a battered and confused end - more than a hectic day behind its scheduled final ministerial meeting. An 18-month "dialogue" between the rich North and the poor South, which had begun with much enthusiasm and great hope in Paris, finished on a faint and joyless note. A hastily drafted, and uncommonly bland, report was presented for adoption to a glum and exhausted audience at the Conference's last plenary meeting.
The conflict between the poor developing nations living in the Southern Hemisphere and the rich industrial countries of the North has entered a new phase in recent months. At long last the countries of the world are coming seriously to grips with the growing material inequalities between a handful of affluent nations in North America, Western Europe and Japan (which account for less than 18 percent of the world population but more than 60 percent of world income), and the scores of poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America which constitute the bulk of humanity but enjoy very little of the earth's bounty.
The multitude of articles, news reports and commentaries on the energy "crisis" in recent months have been chiefly concerned with four basic issues: (1) a growing (and by implication, a worrisome) oil "shortage" in the United States and the industrial world; (2) an intimate (and by implication, an unholy) alliance between the major oil companies and the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) at the expense of the consuming public; (3) an increasing (and by implication, an undesirable) redistribution of oil revenues through higher oil prices in favor of producing countries, giving them significant (and by implication, excessive) controls over future oil supply and foreign exchange reserves; and (4) a need for concerted action (and by implication, "drastic measures") on the part of the oil-short countries vis-à-vis the "oil cartel."
The United Nations "development decade" will go down in history not as a period of spectacular economic growth but as one of sluggish and laggard progress, marred by socio-economic chaos, political upheavals, coups d'états and mass discontent with the entrenched establishments. Political upsets in Algeria, Syria, the Congo, Nigeria, Ghana and Indonesia have been some of the outstanding cases. Others less conspicuous and less internationally significant have occurred all over South America, Africa and Asia.