By Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi
Iran watchers are no doubt aware that recently Iran’s “Shabake-ye Khabar” news network of the Islamic Republic’s official “Seda va Sima” television and radio network, conducted an internet poll regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.
Respondents were asked whether Iran should cease uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. 58% of respondents called for the cessation of uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. A screen shot can be found here.
In a screen shot posted on Radio Free Liberty in any article by Golnaz Esfandiari, the percentage against nuclear enrichment exceeds 60%. No doubt due to the respective sites taking their screen shots at different times. According to Ms. Esfandiari, Radio Free Liberty took the screen shot shortly before the poll’s removal.
As the news site realised its bungle, and the story was picked up by international outlets, it replaced the nuclear internet poll, with another one, asking respondents whether they would support the Majles plan to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to the EU oil embargo. 89% of respondents stated that they were against the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Here’s the relevant screen shot.
After this second gaff, the network steered clear of the nuclear issue and sanctions altogether and instead posted a poll relating to Iranian football.
This wasn’t a scientific opinion poll, and according to the news site about 2,000 people participated. Iranian state media later and rather bizarrely accused BBC Persian service of hacking their site and doctoring the opinion poll. BBC Persian firmly rejected this charge.
That being said, I would not be surprised if many Iranians are questioning the wisdom of the current nuclear policy. Many are under immense pressure because of the currency crisis, rampant inflation and many other economic ailments, all exacerbated by economic and financial sanctions.
In Iran there has not been a genuine, frank and open discussion of the nuclear file and the costs involved with the government’s programme in the face of several UNSC resolutions and extreme pressure from the US and its European allies. If a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis were placed before Iranians in the public area, it would be most interesting to see and hear what they might conclude. That being said, we very rarely, if ever, see foreign, national security and nuclear energy policy considered in accordance with Iranian public opinion. Another debate for another time, no doubt.
–Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi is an Iran researcher at the Oxford Research Group and a third year doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. He has published widely on Iran. His latest with Paul Ingram and Gabrielle Rifkind is “Iran’s Nuclear Impasse: Breaking the Deadlock”. Follow him on twitter: @essikhan