Anyone who has spent much time eating Persian food knows how important chicken is, whether it’s roast chicken, chicken with pomegranate sauce and walnuts, or chicken kebab. So a chicken shortage or, worse yet, unaffordable chicken is a real problem, and it is doubly so during Ramadan. Right now, just at the moment that even the Iranian government has confessed the “devastating” effect of Western sanctions, the country is in the grips of a major chicken crisis.
Chicken prices have tripled in the last year, and nearly doubled in the last month, which has priced a significant number of Iranians out of the chicken market (or perhaps we should say it has priced Iranian chickens out of a significant number of households). Either way, there are a lot of very angry Iranians, who not surprisingly are blaming their government for this foul state of affairs. In part, the government is blameless, since the cost of imports and the cost of feed grain have been driven up by the sanctions. But then again, the behavior of the government provoked the sanctions in the first place, and the singularly incompetent economic policies of the regime probably constitute the most important cause of the crisis.
Worse still, the rising costs of feed grains – corn and wheat have increased about 50% as a result of drought, especially in the American Middle West – have made it impossible for many Iranian producers to continue to raise and sell chickens. It is not unusual nowadays to see long lines in front of chicken merchants, and the Iranians, with a sense of humor reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s greatest hits, have now started to talk about “chicken lines,” which divide the society between those who can both afford and obtain chickens, and those who cannot.
For its part, the regime is reacting with consummate cloddishness. The Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, an infamous Holocaust denier who has offices in London as well as Iran, achieved celebrity by proclaiming “So what if people don’t eat chicken?” Doctors agree that meat is bad for you, after all (hat tip: Potkin).
This sort of buffoonery has not tamed the national chicken craving, and angry crowds are demonstrating around the country, especially when the national media foolishly ran pictures of a recent Tehran conference at which the attendees ate…well, you know what they ate.
All of which led the Islamic Republic’s leading lights to look for solutions. No, not solutions to the chicken crisis itself — that’s beyond them — but of course ways to quell the people’s anger. So the chief of police told movie makers and TV producers to eliminate scenes of chicken eaters, because “certain people, seeing the class gap between rich and poor, might grab a knife and think they will grab their share from the rich.” Perhaps the remnants of the anti-Wall Street movement might take a Ramadan break in Iran this summer, and lead their oppressed brothers and sisters in a mass movement of righteous indignation.
Not likely, I know. They probably believe Vice President Rahimi, who predictably blamed the whole mess on a foreign conspiracy.
But the Iranians know better.
It’s quite a conjunction of bad news for Supreme Leader Khamenei and his henchmen: there’s a drought; the country’s biggest inland lake, Oroumiyeh, is shrinking (shades of the Soviet catastrophe at the Aral Sea), and the locals are demonstrating there as well.
And every day, Khamenei looks West, toward the setting Syrian sun, and dreads the likelihood that he is watching his own destiny unfold.
UPDATE: One chicken demonstrator killed. And an international movement to free Iranian women from the requirement of wearing the hijab is getting pretty big.
I’ve always said that the women are the most potent revolutionary force in the “Muslim world.” Ahem.