Judged by conventional standards, Iran's economy seems to be going down the drain. Eggs are scarce here, electric heaters are not available, and car batteries and tires can only by purchased on the black market.
Yet analysts here contend that this oil-rich country will not be brought to its knees by U.S. economic pressure, that the the shortages here amount to little more than inconvenience and that Iranian traders are beginning to get around the freeze on their U.S. bank accounts by getting letters of credit elsewhere.
More important, Iran still has oil, and, has long as it can keep its fileds running, it can sell enough to keep its economy going.
Although production has been cut in half form prerevolutionary levels, Iran still produces enough oil -- about 2.6 million barrels a day, according to reliable estimates here -- to finance its needs. Recent price increases have compensated for production lags.
"It gets $40 million to $60 million a day from its oil production," said one Western economist here. "It doesn't take long to get enough to keep this place afloat."
Iran's chief concern is food imports, which it needs to feed its 36 million citizens.
It spends an estimated $1 billion yearly on food needs. This includes the import of 20 percent of its wheat, a full third of the rice and sugar it consumes and 80 percent of its vegtable oil.
Until the revolution, most of those imports came from the United States. But in the last year Iran has diversified its food suppliers and encouraged its farmers to produce more.
According to economists here, the U.S. longshoremen's refusal to handle exports to Iran -- which saved the American government from having to make a move officially -- has not been felt here yet and is unlikely to in the future.
Iran now is getting most of its food eleswhere. The United states, for instance, used to supply 500,000 tons of Louisiana rice to Iran annually. To counteract that loss, Iran has just agreed to buy 100,000 tons of rice from Thailand, which until this year supplied this country with between 30,000 and 50,000 tons.
According to economic sources here, a U.S. trading coporation was involved in that deal.
Similarly, Iran is shifting to Australia as a supplier of wheat, and plans to buy 520,000 tons from there this year.
In addition, Iran is buying mutton, in short supply here, from Australia and New Zealand, which have set up special slaughter houses which received an Islamic seal of approval from Iranian mullahs to process meat for this country. Australian Moslems actually do the slaughtering there.
Morteza Movahedizadeh, managing director of the government trading corporation that purchases foodstuffs from abroad, said Iran has enough basics on hand to withstand seven to 10 months of total blockade, "which is very unlikely."
The biggest problem is prices, which the government-controlled newspaper Islamic Revolution said "are raising rampantly." The paper, which is published by Economics and Finance Minister Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr and edited by Central Bank Chief Governor Alireza Nobrai, said food prices are up by almost 25 percent during the past year.
" those responsible for these counterrevolutionary price rises fail to obey the imam's [revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] directives for helping the deprived masses.
"It is mostly the few producers and middlemen who benefit from the profit made on consumer goods, and they do not stop short of of anything in profiteering," the newspaper said.
It blamed the bazaaris -- the powerful Tehran merchants whose support and financial backing helped overthrow the shah -- for being "strong and greedy."
The question is, however, how do these rising prices and shortages affect the majority of Iranians.
Analysts here are unsure, but note that most of the complaints come from the upper middle class that benefited most under the deposed shah.While prices have undoubtedly gone up, the bulk of Iranians are doing no worse and perhaps slightly better economically than they did before, said one expert from a Third World Asian nation.
There are complaints, though. One construction subcontractor said he was forced to drive cab because all his equipment was wrecked during the revolution and he feels things are still too unstable to risk getting it repaired.
Businessmen complain about government regulation and factory owners say employes would rather hold political meetings than work, causing production to fall.
Foreign workers are pulling out of Iran, leaving companies here short of technological know-how. But the government sponsored a fair in which all sorts of foreign-made spare parts were displayed and Iranian companies invited to try to duplicate them. According to a Western economic attache, there were few parts that local contractors said they could not make.
That, in fact would bring Iran down to the level of most Third World countries, where small back alley shops repair machinery without spare parts by using chewing gum and baling wire.
Indeed, one of the aims of the revolution is to free Iran from Western economic dominance. So, while the economic downturn looks bad from the outside it may be just what Khomeini wants.
Iran's oil riches insure that it can import necessities. What may be lost are the Western luxury goods that separated the lives of upper-class Iranians from the rest of the country. As far as Khomeini is concerned, those were the goods that polluted the Islamic purity of the nation.