The Big Issue

For the first time in decades, Iran was not represented by its foreign minister at the annual Munich Security Conference.

Instead, organizers of the February 17-19 event invited three members of Iran’s exiled opposition: the former crown prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi; rights activist Masih Alinejad; and Nazanin Boniadi, an actress and ambassador to Amnesty International.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry denounced the decision, with spokesman Nasser Kanani on February 20 saying the organizers had made a “huge mistake” for “giving the stage to notorious people.”

Why It Matters: The absence of Iranian officials at the conference highlighted Tehran’s increasing isolation on the international stage.

Iran has come under mounting global pressure for its deadly crackdown on monthslong anti-regime protests at home and its alleged supply of combat drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine.

The presence of Pahlavi, Alinejad, and Boniadi has given legitimacy to Iran’s exiled opposition. Exiled opposition figures recently met in Washington and pledged to establish a charter for a transition to a new, democratic system in Iran.

Pahlavi told Radio Farda that the “duty and mission” of the trio in Munich was to “deliver the message of the Iranian people to the world.” But they did not have any meetings with high-ranking foreign officials. Alinejad said she was disappointed that the German foreign minister refused to meet her.

What’s Next: It is unclear how much support Iran exiled opposition will attract inside and outside Iran. It is also unclear if the opposition can bridge its longstanding differences.

Speaking to Radio Farda, Hannah Neumann, a German lawmaker in the European Parliament, said “as long as there is so much infighting among Iranians that want to see the regime gone, it will not succeed.”

Wolfgang Ischinger, the president of the Munich Security Conference Foundation, told Radio Farda that excluding Iranian officials from the event this year was not a “wrong decision.” But he said it “doesn’t mean that this would be a right decision if and when,” for example, talks over reviving the nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran resumed.
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What We’re Watching

Iran’s national currency, the rial, plummeted to a new record low of 501,300 against the U.S. dollar on February 20, according to which gathers live data from Iranian exchanges.

The decline in the value of the rial comes as food prices soar. That includes the price of red meat, which reached a new high this week.

Iran’s Sazandegi daily was shut down on February 20 for reporting on the rising price of meat and running a front-page headline, “Meat Rebellion.” The newspaper was accused of spreading rumors and reporting false information.

Why It Matters: Iran’s troubled economy is sinking to new lows amid months-long anti-regime protests, the imposition of new sanctions against Tehran, and the Islamic republic’s growing isolation.

The Central Bank of Iran on February 21 was given “full authority” to curb the rial’s depreciation. The government also announced plans to combat rising commodity prices. But it is unclear if the authorities have a viable strategy to boost the economy.

Mohsen Renani, a prominent economist and professor at Isfahan University in Iran, wrote an open letter on February 18 in which he said the collapse of the clerical regime had become “inevitable,” adding that the faltering economy was among the factors that could “trigger the last stage of this downfall.”

Hannah Kaviani