Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thomas Friedman strongly dislikes Iran

or thats the impression one would get hearing him talk about Iran on KVIE today evening. Iran was only a footnote in his very interesting discourse about energy policies, American competitiveness and the Bush administration among other things.

When nudged by the host to comment on Iran, he unleashed a rather sharp and bitter attack almost sounding like a regular warmonger. He called Iran a typical oil-state (or something to that effect) and branded it a state that encourages suicide bombers. Well I was taken aback to say the least, after all one expects your favorites to say what one likes. Well anyway I decided to check on Iran's credentials, as recorded in CIA's factbook no less, and compare them with those of another oil-state that comes to mind first - Saudi Arabia.

Some facts that were news to me: starting with population, Iran seems to be doing much better (depending on how you look at it) with a growth rate of 1.1% (Saudi's 2.18%) and a fertility rate of 1.8 children born/woman (Saudis' have an astronomical 4 children born/woman). Iran is also doing marginally better with both male and female literacy, but nothing worth mentioning here. Most importantly, suffrage in Iran is universal while that in Saudi Arabia is restricted to men. Politically, the Saudi's have no parties apart from the royals (works for us, eh?) while Iran has plenty, though their existence is supposed to be tied to their toeing the mullahs' line. Last but not the least, Iran spends 3.3% of its GDP on military expenditure compared to Saudi Arabia's 10%.

Of course, like any conscientious analyst, I include only those figures which help to prop up my worldview, so savor them with a pinch of salt (but even if you were to bother digging deeper, it is unlikely that you would come up anything different).

Friedman seems terribly worried about Iran's nukes what with his speculation that the Shia Persians getting a nuke is almost certain the spur the Sunni Arabs to get their own. Of course, he is too smart to not anticipate the question "But havent the Israelis had nukes for years?" and he answered it himself but he did such a lame job that I ask again:

"But havent the Israelis had nukes for years, Mr Friedman?".

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