Iranians Celebrate the Revolution Amid New Cash Crunch Concerns
IRANIAN cities are taking on a holiday look these days.
In Tehran the green, white, and red flag of the Islamic Republic can be seen on almost every building. Triumphal arches decorated with flowers and green leaves have been erected across the city's main avenues, and all public buildings have been illuminated with thousands of flashing multi-colored light bulbs.
This country is celebrating the 14th anniversary of its revolution, which put an end to 2,500 years of monarchy in Iran and paved the way to an Islamic republic.
Called "the 10 days of dawn," the festivities began Feb. 1 and mark the anniversary of the triumphal 1979 return of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to Iran after 15 years of exile.
Army helicopters strew tons of flowers on the streets taken by the ayatollah's motorcade after his landing at the city's airport.
The celebrations will end Thursday with rallies throughout the country which the Iranian government of President Hashemi Rafsanjani hopes will be a powerful demonstration of its popular support.
The events will commemorate the anniversary of a decisive uprising that in the words of a recent Tehran radio editorial broadcast, "brought down a regime that was the US power lever in the region and led to a revolution that has reverberated in the four corners of the world calling upon Muslims to attain glory and magnificence."
Mohammed Sarafraz, editor-in-chief of the influential Tehran daily Ressalatwe, said in an interview that "for centuries Western countries have tried to separate religion from politics. We, on the contrary, believe that both intertwine.... Our ideology is increasingly successful around the globe."
Most Western observers here say the Islamic Republic's greatest strength has been its ability to survive both domestic and international crises, as well as its efficiency in rebuilding the country's main economic infrastructure during the past four years.
Iran's post revolutionary history has been hectic. First came a period of terror that saw hundreds of supporters of the former Imperial regime put to death by revolutionary tribunals.
Then the country found itself trapped in almost complete diplomatic isolation after November 1979, when 52 US diplomats were taken hostage in their own embassy.
Ever since, Iran has had no diplomatic relations with the US and has struggled with only limited success to regain the confidence of the international community.
For eight long years Iran was at war with its most prominent neighbor, Iraq. Simultaneously, the country's leadership managed to put down an armed uprising staged by Islamic dissidents, the People's Mujahideen.
Right after the end of the war with Iraq, the new regime's founding father, Ayatollah Khomeini, died. He bequeathed to his political heirs a devastated economy and a ruling elite divided into various factions.
Despite this, the tenacious Iranian leadership has in past years managed to quietly rebuild the country's economy. With oil exports ranging from 2.4 million to 2.8 million barrels per day, Iran has reemerged as the world's second largest crude exporter after Saudi Arabia.
Iran has also succeeded somewhat in boosting its non-oil exports, mainly agricultural and textile products, which now account for between 7 percent and 10 percent of its income. Tremendous efforts have also been made to rebuild the country's oil refineries and telecommunication systems, which were severely damaged by Iraqi bombardments.
Today national and international phone and telex lines are again operational. Iran still imports some oil by-products. But officials at the National Iranian Oil Company predict that within two years the country will again become an exporter of refined crude.
Western businessmen rang the alarm bells last October by announcing that, for the first time since the 1979 revolution, Iran was failing to keep up its international payments. According to Western commercial attaches here, Iran now has a short-term debt of $6 billion.
These diplomats argue that the Iranian government has been too ambitious in its attempts to rebulild infrasturcture and the economy during the past four years.
THEY also blame the country's military expenditures and fast growing imports of consumer goods.
Iranian stores are glutted with all manner of imported products, from electric coffee makers made in Germany to satellite-dish television antennas that allow the purchaser to receive Western television programs.
In a bid to curb foreign expenditures, President Rafsanjani announced Jan. 31 that his government would impose a 20 percent tariff on all imported consumer goods beginning March 21.
Alinaqi Khanoushi, president of the Iranian chamber of commerce, says his country is experiencing only from a temporary cash flow problem. Mr. Khanoushi accuses international bankers of being unfair to the Islamic Republic.