Iran’s Big Crisis: The Price of Chicken
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran has a lot on his mind these days. Especially chicken.
The rising price of this food staple is the cause of such anxiety among Iranian officials that last month, Iran’s police chief, Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, urged the country’s TV stations not to broadcast images of people eating the birds. He was worried it could lead to social unrest.
Khamenei is Iran’s most powerful man, but he knows the chicken crisis is one he must address. He needs to find a solution to it and, like any politician, someone to blame.
None of the options available to Khamenei is attractive, a situation that’s increasingly the case in other areas, too. His country is being pushed ever further into international isolation and economic hardship by its insistence on pursuing a nuclear-fuel program that the rest of the world believes is designed to produce weapons, despite Iran’s protestations to the contrary.
The supreme leader could, for example, blame the price of chicken — which has tripled since last year — on sanctions that the U.S. and the European Union imposed to deter Iran from continuing its nuclear-fuel plan. Yet that would mean admitting to both the West and ordinary Iranians that sanctions are having a big impact, something the regime is desperately trying to avoid. Iranian officials have instructed the news media not to discuss the effect that sanctions are having on the economy.
Another option would be to blame President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but that could backfire, too. Khamenei was once the president’s main backer. It was the supreme leader who allowed Ahmadinejad to go ahead with the subsidy-reform plan that has been a core driver of inflation.
Escaping from international isolation doesn’t look any easier for Khamenei, either with regard to the nuclear issue or the turmoil in Syria, Iran’s most important ally in the region.