These are difficult times for ordinary Iranians when it comes to making ends meet — and now, with the re-imposition of sanctions by the United States on a range of sectors of their economy, things will go from bad to worse. Already, at least one protester has been killed in a series of protests at the deteriorating economy as basic food commodity prices increase, runaway inflation hits families’ incomes and spending power, while the Iranian rial is worth less with each passing day.
What’s worrying for Iranians is a growing reality that the regime that controls almost every aspect of their daily lives seems unwilling or unable — or both — to be able to act in a comprehensive, credible and effective manner. This realisation is fermenting unrest too, and there are reports of protests across the nation, with scores arrested. The reaction of the regime too is also troubling, where security forces in some instances are going house to house to try and identify those taking part in the demonstrations.
Already, Iranian parliamentarians have summoned President Hassan Rouhani to explain what steps the regime is taking to try and improve the economy. At the weekend, the judiciary, legislature and government approved plans by the Central Bank of Iran to strictly limit access to official fixed currency rates to essential imports.
Clearly though, Iranians with any access to hard currencies will ignore this official move as worthless — rather like the free-falling rial notes themselves — and will press its value even lower through black market transactions. The US sanctions ban the regime from purchasing dollar banknotes, and prevents it from trading in gold, precious or industrial commodity metals.
There is a reality too that all Iranians are aware of — that they live in a land rich in natural resources, commodities that offer the potential for a booming economy. As well as oil and natural gas, Iran has rich deposits in coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc and sulphur. Together, these minerals form the basis for an industrial sector that would provide for all.
Iran’s potential, however, is being squandered by a regime intent on providing material support for Al Houthi rebels in Yemen contrary to the terms of a United Nations arms embargo; helping its militias unsettle the elected government of Iraq; using Hezbollah to prop up the regime of President Bashar Al Assad in Syria; controlling Lebanon’s civil society from Hezbollah’s base in south Beirut; and fermenting unrest and sedition wherever it can across the Arabian Gulf.