The editor of Asr-e Iran, Jaffar Mohammadi, wrote an op-ed listing the nine countries that stand to lose the most from improved relations between Iran and the West. Although Israel and Arab countries in the Persian Gulf were included on this list, what made the article stand out was that Iran’s allies such as China and Russia made the list as well. What’s more, Mohammadi even included the United States as one of the countries with which improved relations can be mutually beneficial.
Assadollah Asgaroladi, who is head of the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries, warned that investment in Iran from China has dropped significantly.
To a group of reporters today, Asgaroladi, one of the most influential merchants in Iran after the revolution, said that Chinese investment in Iran in 2011 “had reached close to three billion dollars, but in 2012 this became less […] and had only reached 400 million dollars.”
The question of China arose when a reporter asked, “Under sanctions, are we not forced to sell oil for consumer goods?” Asgaroladi responded that “if we are forced to sell oil in order to buy inferior goods, then why have we built factories?”
China is one of Iran’s top customers for oil. Many Iranians blame their government for allowing Chinese companies to flood the market with cheap and inferior products, causing a strain on Iranian factories and even forcing some to close operations altogether. Asgaroladi continued that “under these conditions we must find a way to help factories bring down prices so that they can compete with imported goods.”
When asked by a reporter what could be done to address this issue, Asgaroladi said that “this is the weak point of management. The reason merchants bring in inferior goods is that we haven’t been able to produce these goods domestically ourselves.” The Iranian government has introduced economic plans such as “The Year of Economic Jihad” and “The Year of National Production” to address the overall economic problems. However, it’s difficult to ascertain how fruitful, if at all, these plans have been.
In regard to the sanctions, Asgaroladi said “we have still not been able to be free [from the effects] of sanctions. The Americans have carrots in one hand and a hammer in the other, and we don’t accept this type of politics.”
Asgaroladi predicted another difficult year for the Iranian economy due to the presidential elections in June. “Political fighting will push the issue of the economy to the side before the elections,” he said, adding that when the new government takes office, in “the first six months, the new government must specify their plan and then have their ministers approved, and this process will go until the end of the year.”
In Other News
At the opening ceremony of a refinery plant, President Ahmadinejad said yesterday that “we cannot still say that our oil has been nationalized, and the day that we can claim our oil has been nationalized is when all of the earnings of oil is in the pockets of the Iranian nation.”
Oil in Iran was nationalized after the 1979 revolution but has had a long and contentious history, serving as a rallying cry in Iranian modern history for political parties from Islamists to secularists. Despite being one of the top oil producers in the world, Iran still needs to have much of its oil refined abroad.
At the ceremony, Ahmadinejad told the oil minister and those in charge of the refinery that “today, I want you to make a refinery that […] is completely Iranian and from now on; instead of waiting for others to do something for us, we’ll have others waiting for Iranian capabilities.”
The president stated that “we want to reach a point where we won’t export any crude oil. In this case, the refineries will at least double, and this will have a lot of benefits for our country.” Ahmadinejad believes that Iran can sell refined oil at “three to four times the price of crude oil.”
Fars News covers China’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Hong Lei’s comments and criticism of the lastest push by the EU to increase sanctions against Iran.
Fars News, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, claims in its headline that Hong Lei dubbed the sanctions “illegal” on the basis of a Reuters report from earlier today. However nowhere in the Reuters report does the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman call the sanctions “illegal”. He states they pose an obstacle to solving the nuclear stand off, but does not call them “illegal”.
Fars News and a number of other Iranian news sites were caught out last month plagiarising a fake poll from the U.S. based satirical news site, The Onion.