Fragility, thy name is Iran

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As Michael Ledeen observes above, Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse. Dr. Ledeen was a key member of the Reagan team that beat the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and he has an eye for such things. It might be added that the symptoms of social decay and popular demoralization that appear in today’s Iran, including epidemic rates of drug addiction and what appears to be the highest rate of STD infection and female infertility in the world, recall the post-collapse Soviet Union.

We need strategists who can add and subtract as well as read and write. No matter what Iran does, it will undergo the fastest rate of population aging in the history of the world, thanks to the fall in its total fertility rate from 7 children per female in 1979 to 1.6 children in 2012. The bulge generation now in their  30s and 40s will reach their 60s soon, and the generation of working-age Iranians that follows them will be tiny: Iranians over aged 60 will comprise 30% to 40% of the population. With a tenth the per capital GDP of the US or Europe, Iran cannot possibly afford the health care and retirement benefits to support this level of elderly dependency (the industrial nations barely can do so). Against this, the Sunni world (particularly Pakistan and Egypt, if not Turkey) still has rapid population growth.

The notion that an aging, minority Shi’ite population might dominate the center of the Middle East is a strange one. The Persian pocket empire is rotting from the inside, and it will take little in the way of external pressure to crack it open.

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David P. Goldman
David Paul Goldman (born September 27, 1951) is an American economist, music critic, and author, best known for his series of online essays in the Asia Times under the pseudonym Spengler. Goldman sits on the board of Asia Times Holdings.
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