Both Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have defended the Iranian government's decision to ration gasoline. That decision resulted in violent protests in Tehran, the capital of oil-rich but refinery-poor Iran.
The protests stopped after armed guards were posted at gasoline stations, but Iranians remain angry. One Tehran resident told the Associated Press news agency that "Ahmadinejad promised paradise, but his government has made life hell for Iranians."
In addition to a gasoline shortage, Iran's economic problems include high unemployment, rising inflation, and difficulty attracting foreign investment. The United Nations Security Council has also imposed sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt its uranium-enrichment activity and live up to its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack commented on the difficulties faced by the Iranian people:
"The domestic conditions you see in Iran are a result of the mismanagement of the Iranian economy by this government. The fact that you have gas rationing, the fact that you have inflation, the fact that you have the Iranian government borrowing against its future are all indications that this is a government that is writing a lot of checks with its promises, but it doesn't really have the expertise to properly manage the Iranian economy."
Mr. McCormack said the sanctions imposed by the United Nations are having an effect, as well:
"There are indications that it has made it more difficult for the Iranian government to engage in illicit activities. And also it has raised some of the costs for the Iranian government operating in the international financial system. Now that's not something that would have been our first choice, but it's the choice that was made by the Iranian government for us by their failure to cooperate with the international system."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States and its allies are working hard to make sure sanctions "aren’t born primarily by the Iranian people because we don't want that." The greatest problem facing Iranians, he says, remains "the Iranian government's mismanagement of their economy."