Facing mounting economic woes and angry protesters, Iranian officials are generating some interesting ideas as to how to move forward.
Demonstrations over the rising prices of everyday goods and the free-falling value of the Iranian rial, the national currency, broke out in Tehran on June 24. Since then shopkeepers have gone on strike, traders have massed outside parliament, and protesters have clashed with riot police as the demonstrations expanded to other cities.
While publicly downplaying the severity of the protests and suggesting that they had been nipped in the bud, the authorities appear wary of a repeat of the large-scale demonstrations that broke out in December, when Iran saw the biggest expression of public discontent in almost a decade. Those demonstrations, which began over economic hardships, spread to more than 80 Iranian cities and towns and resulted in the deaths of at least 25 people.
So, with the clerical establishment facing the conundrum of what to do next, government, military, and judicial officials have offered some suggestions that range from the wacky to the alarming.
'Liquidate' Your Gold
"The administration needs the nation's support," Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht was quoted as saying by the news site Khabaronline.ir on June 26. "We ask all those who have foreign exchange and gold in their homes to liquidate them into the market to boost [domestic] production."
Nobakht's advice was not limited to locals. "The Iranian diaspora should bring their foreign currency to Iran," he added.
In a tweet on June 26, Morteza Kazemian, a journalist and political analyst, suggested it was "delusional" for the government to think it could tap into people's personal savings when it controls the country's foreign assets and reserves, estimated at $112 billion by the International Monetary Fund in March.
"Is he [and other rulers] really unaware of the economic gulf between society and the government?" Kazemian added.
Iran's Judiciary chief warned on June 27 that "economic saboteurs," who he said were behind the fall of the rial, would face severe punishment, including execution.
"The enemy is now trying to disrupt our economy through a psychological operation. In recent days some tried to shut down [Tehran's Grand Bazaar], but their plot was thwarted by the police," Sadeq Larijani was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
In response to Larijani's suggestion that outside forces were responsible for the situation, reformist lawmaker Mahmud Sadeqi suggested in a June 26 tweet that threats and intimidation would not fix the situation:
"The solution to economic issues must be through economic methods; threatening people with prison and execution is not an appropriate method. Repeating a mistake is not a mistake anymore, it is a decision."
Do Away With Government
A senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that the people might be better off on their own.
"Sometimes it seems that the country can be better managed without a government," Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi was quoted as saying on June 24 by Fars.
Safavi added that people were unhappy with the government as their concerns had not been addressed. He said government officials were "incompetent."
It was unclear if his comments were in response to the recent protests. Fars has since removed the article from its website.