Gasoline rationaning in Iran sets off violent riots around Tehran and other major cities
It will be interesting to see how this move effects world oil and gas prices.
Is an attack by the US on Iran in the future? or is this just an orchestrated attempt to keep oil prices above $70/barrel and limit the amount of money the Islamic republic spends on subsidizing cheap gasoline for its mostly poor citizens through imports.
I'm not sure if the members of the fat and happy mullah class in Iran realize how close they are to being overthrown. In the last year alone major protests have been held by just about every sect of Iranian society including: women, university students, labor unions such as bus drivers, teachers and oil workers. Minority groups such as Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Azeris, Turkaman, Sufis, Sunnis and even the usually quiet moderate Shiite community. The business community has also protested by closing down entire bazaar districts in Tehran, Tabriz, Mashad and other Iranian cities.
Fuel rationing sparks Tehran unrest
Mark Tran and agencies
Wednesday June 27, 2007
Iranians burn a petrol station in protest at the introduction of fuel rationing in Tehran
Iranians burn a petrol station in protest at the introduction of fuel rationing in Tehran. Photograph: AP
Motorists today set fire to petrol stations in Tehran in an angry backlash against the Iranian government's decision to impose petrol rationing.
A station in Pounak, a poor neighbourhood of the capital, was set alight, while two pumps were completely destroyed at another in the east of the city.
"Last night, there were a lot of fights - people were furious due to the sudden decision," a 55-year-old pump attendant told Reuters.
Drivers raced to fill up their tanks when the oil ministry announced that restrictions would be imposed from midnight. Long queues formed and scuffles broke out.
Iranian state radio reported that several petrol stations had been attacked by "vandals".
The unrest put further political pressure on the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is already under fire for failing to deliver on promises to improve the economy after his election in 2005.
In May, the government reduced subsidies for petrol, causing a 25% jump in prices.
The government had been planning to implement rationing for weeks. It was supposed to begin on May 21, but was repeatedly put off amid fears that Iranians would react badly because they are used to cheap and plentiful petrol.
"This man, Ahmadinejad, has damaged all things," Reza Khorrami, a 27-year-old teacher who was queuing at one Tehran petrol station last night, said. "The timing of the rationing is just one case."
Queues more than half a mile long formed at some Tehran petrol stations. Minutes before midnight, car owners still caught in the long lines began blasting their horns - sparking arguments with residents trying to sleep.
"Is this good timing, to announce rationing only three hours before it starts?" Ahmad Safai, a 30-year-old shopkeeper who was queuing, said. "I had no gas in my car's tank when I heard the report."
Under the rationing plan, owners of private cars can buy only 100 litres (26 gallons) of petrol a month at the subsidised price of 1,000 rials (0.049p) per litre. Taxis can get 800 litres a month at the subsidised rate.
The system will run for four months and could be extended on a six-month basis, which means that, from today, Iranians can plan consumption for the next four months. It will be monitored through smart cards and card-reading devices attached to all pumps.
Mr Ahmadinejad had resisted increases because of his campaign promises to share Iran's oil wealth with the poor.
The US - which is leading efforts to isolate Iran, accusing it of seeking to build nuclear weapons - said Iran's petrol imports were a point of "leverage".
Iran lacks refining capacity, even though it is the second biggest exporter in Opec, and therefore has to import more than 50% of its petrol needs. To keep prices low, the government subsidised them at enormous cost to the public purse.
Conservatives in Iran's parliament, especially those aligned with the country's national oil company, have long pushed for higher petrol prices. They hope the move will cut waste and curb smuggling while also enabling the government to invest in more oil and gas production.
Analysts said Iran faced further protests as the rations began to bite.
"It will also be interesting to see what will happen three months down the line, when quite a number of consumers will find themselves having used up too much of their four-month allowance," Samuel Ciszuk, an energy analyst with the consultancy Global Insight, said.
"[They] will be forced to stay home or buy on the black market that will inevitably develop ... that might spark longer and more sustained protests."
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