In testimony before the United States Congress, William Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said the Iranian government is failing its people. In addition to denying Iranian citizens basic human rights, the regime’s support for terrorism and defiance of international demands concerning its nuclear program, has left Iran increasingly isolated:
“Because of its behavior, it [Iran] can count on few allies in the world, beyond the unimposing trio of Belarus, Cuba, and Venezuela, and sometimes Syria. And no real friends that could offer it strategic reassurance, vital investment, or a secure future in a globalized world.”
Iran also faces a number of internal contradictions, said Mr. Burns:
“Despite a hundred and forty dollar a barrel oil, its economy is stagnating, and a remarkably inept Iranian leadership is failing its own people. Inflation is running at twenty-five percent, and food and housing costs are skyrocketing.”
Iran is the fourth largest oil-producing nation in the world. But because of economic mismanagement, the oil windfall has failed to generate anything near the one million new jobs Iran needs each year just to keep up with population growth. And despite its oil production, noted Mr. Burns, Iran still needs to import nearly half of all refined petroleum products:
“In these circumstances, it’s fair for Iranians to ask whether the cost of its defiant nuclear program, which could run into the tens of billions of dollars, is really worth it.”
Iranians, said Mr. Burns, need only look across the Gulf to see the advanced innovative economy of Dubai, or the rapid expansion of Qatar’s natural gas exports, or the efforts of Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich states to undertake needed reform and invest in future capacity, to appreciate the opportunities squandered by their own leaders.
The purpose of U.S. policy toward Iran, said Mr. Burns, is to change the behavior of the Iranian regime, making common cause with as much of the international community as possible. “We should not allow the Iranian regime to divert attention from its domestic failings and external adventurism, under the false pretext that it is under existential threat from the outside,” said Under Secretary of State Burns. “The problem is the regime’s behavior, which endangers not only the international community but the self interest of the Iranian people.”