Iran wor­ried about more than a bomb

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MICHAEL DAVENTRY FOR­EIGN EDI­TOR

WHAT WE are watch­ing feels like a pro­tracted chess match — but one where Don­ald Trump just kicked the board over and the Euro­peans are scram­bling to put all the pieces back.

On the other side of the ta­ble is Iran, sit­ting back with arms folded, a burly pic­ture of de­fi­ance, point­ing out it was keep­ing to the rules and that even the ref­eree agrees.

Is this an al­most states­man­like pro­jec­tion of the moral high ground? Is Iran in the as­cen­dancy, richer at home thanks to the brief pe­riod of re­duced sanc­tions and more in­flu­en­tial be­yond its bor­ders?

The lan­guage com­ing out of Tehran could cer­tainly lead you to think so. It an­nounced plans to en­rich more ura­nium for peace­ful means — like fuel for Iran’s only nu­clear power plant and for med­i­cal func­tions like ra­dio­ther­apy — in what French for­eign min­is­ter Jean-Yves Le Drian grudg­ingly ad­mit­ted was a per­fectly le­gal move.

But this dis­guises how grim things are in Iran, where the strug­gling econ­omy is af­fect­ing or­di­nary peo­ple.

The week-long protests that be­gan in late De­cem­ber last year in Mash­dad, Iran’s sec­ond-largest city, at­tract­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple across the coun­try, were trig­gered by a hum­ble dis­pute: the price of eggs. Since then, Iran’s cur­rency has sunk to his­toric lows against the dol­lar, af­fect­ing ev­ery­thing Ira­ni­ans im­port from other coun­tries — food, fur­ni­ture, cars and mo­bile phones. Many were im­ported by Euro­pean com­pa­nies now driven away by the US sanc­tions.

The US Pres­i­dent is bank­ing on Ira­ni­ans ris­ing up to over­throw their lead­ers and they know it.

Chess play­ers do not re­veal their strat­egy in ad­vance and Iran’s lead­ers are no dif­fer­ent. Mr Trump sus­pects they want to use a bomb for se­cu­rity, but bombs are no sub­sti­tute for food.

For now, the match hap­haz­ardly lingers on as the play­ers find out if there is any­thing left to sal­vage.

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