Nowhere is the cost of the so-called "War against the Infidel" more apparent than in Iran's oil industry. Projections made in 1977 envisaged the Iranian oil off-take to reach a daily capacity of 6.5 million barrels, with another 1.5 million available as emergency reserves. The capacity of the Kharg terminal, the chief export facility for Iranian oil, was increased from 5.5 million barrels a day to 8 million.
But lack of investment, and the virtual impossibility of accessing highly complex technology, has meant a steady decline. Today, the Islamic Republic produces something like 3.8 million barrels a day - a level Iran had surpassed in 1973.
Against that background, it would not be hard to see that the Islamic Republic has been the bigger loser in the low-intensity war it has waged against the United States. The U.S. is now four times richer, in constant dollars, than it was in 1979. Iran, however, is almost 50 percent poorer.
In a sense, the war that the Islamic Republic says it is waging against the United States has hurt it more than its designated enemy. The recent rise in tension has helped put that issue at the center of the debate inside the Islamic Republic. This is why people like Rafsanjani and Khatami, who once took pride in describing themselves as "jihadists" against the Americans, are now publicly critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's more militant anti-Americanism.
In other words, the real problem is an Iranian one, not an Irano-American one. At some point, the Islamic Republic must decide whether it is in its own interest to review a policy that has produced nothing but disaster over the last three decades. Ahmadinejad may well turn out to be the man who pushed such a review into the agenda of the leadership in Tehran.
May 16, 2006
We've been at war with Iran since 1979
And, Amir Taheri says, it's a war that we have a good chance of winning.