The Iranian government has begun to ration gasoline. Although Iran is one of the world's leading oil-producing countries, it has a shortage of refineries and imports forty percent of the gasoline it uses. Iran's oil ministry announced that drivers of private vehicles will now be limited to one-hundred liters of gasoline per month.
The announcement of gasoline rationing sparked an angry reaction in Tehran. Massive traffic jams were created as drivers lined up to get gas. Protestors burned gas stations and set cars on fire. Some shouted derogatory comments about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One driver told the German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur that "Ahmadinejad is so fixated on [Iran's] nuclear program that he has forgotten the basic needs of the people."
The rationing of gasoline adds to the economic woes already plaguing Iranians, including rising inflation and growing unemployment. In addition, the United Nations Security Council has passed two resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and abide by its nuclear treaty obligations. Now Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council – Britain, France, Russia, China, and the United States – known as the "P-5 plus one" - are consulting on a third resolution on Iran.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey commented on this development:
"We are moving forward with a discussion about ideas for what kinds of elements to include in such a resolution, what kind of sanctions would be involved. And unfortunately, what we're going to see is the noose get tighter on the Iranian government, and, unfortunately, have an impact on the Iranian people as well."
Iran has continually rejected a package, first offered by the "P-5 plus one" in June 2006, that includes help with developing civilian nuclear power and economic assistance if Iran suspends its uranium enrichment activity. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that that offer is still on the table if Iran complies with U.N. mandates and suspends uranium enrichment. If Iran does not, says Secretary of State Rice, "we are firm about the need to increase the pressure."