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IRAN: Gloating over America's economic disaster

Ahmadkhatami

"Oh, people, listen," the Iranian cleric told the faithful today. "Those who wanted to drive us into a crisis over the nuclear issue are being punished by God with a recession!"

Iranian leaders seem to have few qualms about gloating over America's troubles. Indeed, they are having a lot of fun at the expense of the United States over the current financial crisis.

In the past few weeks, several Iranian officials have bashed the U.S. for dragging the world into a financial meltdown.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called for a "fair international financial system" on the sidelines of a conference in Kazakhstan on Thursday:   

The economic crisis in America had an immediate impact on the economies of other countries… We believe that this [crisis] was caused by moves to impose one hegemonic economy on all the other economies… Unfortunately only one economy in the world continues to receive revenue even when other parts of the world are suffering from the crisis… We believe the only way out of this is to set up a fair international financial system.

According to the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars, officials of the Islamic Republic believe the country will weather the global crisis better than others because its economy has increasingly become independent of world market tribulations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Check out the chart below, which compares the performance of the Turquoise equity fund of Iranian stocks traded on the Tehran stock exchange vs. a broader index that measures the performance of emerging market funds.

The red is the Iranian fund. The blue is the broader index.

Turquoise

Earlier this week, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, talking to reporters on the margins of a conference in Geneva, blamed the crisis on errors made by the U.S.:   

The financial crisis has damaged the credibility of the claim by the U.S. that they're able to manage the affairs of the world… In our view, the present crisis has to do a lot with the mistakes made by the U.S.

But the most incendiary comments came from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who linked the current crunch to the abandonment of religion in the West in a televised speech:

Their economy is collapsing... the reason for their defeat is that they have abandoned faith in God and piety… [This is] evidence that God's promise is being delivered, that tyrants and corrupt [people] should go and be replaced by the pious and believers.

Also Iranian clerics have begun weaving theories about the global financial crisis into their religious sermons. In a sermon delivered today in Tehran’s main mosque, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami predicted the fall of the U.S. as a result of the current economic crisis:

It [the financial crisis] not only shows the failure of the U.S. but also the defeat of liberal democracy in the West. The recession was preceded by a collapse of morality… We warn the European Union and Arab countries not to tie their destiny to the U.S. Listen to the sound of the U.S. skeleton cracking up. They, themselves, admit it is the end of the U.S. as a superpower. Oh people, listen. Those who wanted to drive us into a crisis over the nuclear issue are being punished by God with a recession.

Some Iranian officials have bluntly called for the Islamic Republic to take advantage of U.S. economic misfortunes.

Mohammad Nahavandian, the head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines, said earlier this month that Iran should profit from the U.S. economic crisis, according to the official Iranian news agency, IRNA.

Nahavandian said that Iran should use its manpower, natural resources and the special place it enjoys in the Middle East to achieve economic “profitability."

Still, even he acknowledged that the crisis would decrease the West's appetite for energy, which would mean less revenue for oil-rich Iran.   

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

Photo: Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran today. Credit: Ghader Agheli / Fars News Agency

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