An ongoing currency crisis and high levels of unemployment are pushing Iran to the brink of the civil war, with ordinary citizens speaking of their fury at the endemic corruption and financial mismanagement which is blighting their lives.
With prices spiralling and President Hassan Rouhani at loggerheads with US opposite number Donald Trump, things got even worse this week with the reimposition of tough economic sanctions aimed at further undermining the Islamic fundamentalist republic.
Measures which target cars, gold and other metals trading, as well as the government’s ability to buy US dollars, came into force today.
The US has acted after Mr Trump pulled out of the JPCA nuclear agreement earlier this year, the deal which eased sanctions against Iran in exchange for no longer embarking on nuclear weapons development.
The Iranian rial has lost half of its value against the US dollar on the unofficial market this year, while the price of fruit and vegetables has increased by 50 percent since the start of the year.
In the current economic climate, low-income families are struggling to put food on the table. One woman, speaking to the Financial Times as she paid over the odds for a lettuce and a cabbage, said: “God damn this regime and its corrupt rulers.
“They have sent their children to the US and Canada while making us poorer every day.”
Recent months have been marked with protests across Iran on issues ranging from water shortages to joblessness, and the Trump administration is partly motivated by a desire to trigger a popular uprising and consequent regime change – something implied by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech delivered last month in which he characterised the country’s rulers as a “mafia”.
The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari has acknowledged the gravity of the situation, declaring that “domestic weaknesses and threats are more serious” than the foreign military threat posed by the US or other countries.
The rank-and-file are infuriated by allegations of corruption, while reformist and hardline politicians routinely accuse each other of fraud and mismanagement.
Ali, 61, a former member of the Revolutionary Guards in the city of Amol, said: “Corruption is so high that it has penetrated everywhere.
“Why should we struggle with daily issues and risk our lives to fill the pockets of corrupt people?”
In anticipation of the sanctions, wealthier Iranians have been stockpiling basic commodities and buying up gold and cars in an bid to protect the value of their savings.
However, less affluent people do not have this option and their complaints are increasingly taking on an anti-establishment tone.
Ali, a 19-year-old shop worker, said: “If I see protesters in the streets, I will join them.”
He explained that he worked 16-hour days, receiving one million tomans (£175) a month. A toman is equivalent to 10 rials.
He added: “But the owner of this shop receives 90m tomans in rent every month without working. Why? Is this a fair system?”
Another shopkeeper said: “Before, people who could not afford to eat meat were at least having bread and yoghurt.
“But now even yoghurt is becoming unaffordable for some families.”
Experts have warned Mr Trump’s sanction mean a price of a barrel of oil could rocket to $90.
Morgan Stanley estimates Iranian production will drop to 2.7 million barrels a day by the fourth quarter, with more than a million barrels taken offline.
Source » express