Deprived of their right to vote for other than state approved candidates, the people of Iran appear to be voting, in one way or another, with their sex organs. Thus, Michael Rubin reports that Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei is complaining about low birth rates:
This lack of interest in bearing children is a malady. Otherwise, one naturally likes to have children. Why do a number of people prefer to have only one child? Why do they prefer to have only two children? Why do women and men avoid – in different ways – having children? You should look at these issues and see what factors play a role in this. You should identify these factors and ask experts and thinkers to think about finding a cure for these pathological factors. I believe that these factors are pathological and problematic.
Khamenei is right to be worried. Rubin finds that the fertility rate in Iran has fallen from 6.2 children per woman in 1986 to below the “replacement rate” of 2.1.
Khanenei is also probably right that this sharp decline represents a malaise. But the source of the malaise may require less resort to “experts and thinkers” than he supposes.
One source, as Rubin suggests, is probably a more Western attitude towards families. But it’s likely that Iran’s repressive society and tottering economy are also playing a role in reducing the desire of Iranians to reproduce.
Rubin argues that if the Islamic Republic is facing severe structural problems and strains, the last thing the United States should do is throw the current regime an economic lifeline. Unfortunately, this is precisely what President Obama has started to do.
Obama justifies working towards a deal ending sanctions on the theory that, as damaging as sanctions are, the mullahs will not give up their quest for nuclear weapons in order to end them. But the deal Obama is working towards, if its goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes, presupposes that Iran will make just the trade — renouncing nukes in exchange for an end to sanctions — that Obama says we cannot expect Iran to make.
The chief virtue of sanctions is that they weaken hold of the mullahs. They thus promote the prospect of the re-emergence of an Iran that isn’t subject to clerical rule.
This outcome, as Rubin says, is the one for which the United States should strive. Unfortunately, it is an outcome in which Obama, for some reason, appears to have little interest.