Rouhani dismisses US sanctions on Iran as ‘psychological warfare’

Re-imposed blanket sanctions to hit Iran’s access to dollars, gold and precious metals

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani giving an interview to Iranian TV in Tehran. / AFP PHOTO / Iranian Presidency / - Photograph: Handout/AFP/Getty Images

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani giving an interview to Iranian TV in Tehran. / AFP PHOTO / Iranian Presidency / - Photograph: Handout/AFP/Getty Images

 

Iran’s president has dismissed a new round of US-imposed sanctions as “psychological warfare” as the country braces for a new round of hardship.

Iranians are anxiously awaiting the re-imposed blanket sanctions which hit their country’s access to dollars, gold and precious metals.

The punitive measures, which come amid growing street protests, are due to come into force in the early hours of Tuesday, following US president Donald Trump’s decision in May to renege on the landmark 2015 deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

This week’s sanctions will also target a range of industries, including Iran’s car-making sector, and are to be followed by a set of additional and even more stringent measures by November 4th, including an embargo on the import of Iranian oil and sanctions on its banking sector.

The return of sanctions has compounded Iran’s economic woes, sending the national currency into a tailspin. It also comes as street protests prompted by economic grievances, a lack of social and political freedoms and growing environmental challenges have prompted warnings that Iran is on an economic and political precipice.

“There’s a sense of anguish in Iranian society - everyone is worried and waiting,” said Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of politics at Tehran University.

“There is no hope that the situation will get better. People think that in the best case scenario, it won’t get worse. Among the youth you see a huge tendency to leave the country,” he said.

On Monday night, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, dismissed the new round of sanctions as “psychological warfare” designed to help Mr Trump’s allies in the upcoming mid-term elections.

He reassured Iranians that his government was able to stave off pressure from the US, but said it was only possible if different factions within the country showed unity. “Our system is stable, we’re all standing together,” he said.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Monday that enemies were pulling out all the stops to target “Iran’s existence”, pledging that his country “will overcome this period of hardship”.

Mr Rouhani’s administration is scrambling to mitigate the impact of sanctions and their effect on the plummeting value of the national currency by easing foreign exchange rules.

Crisis

Homeira, a 31-year-old graduate of management living in Chalus, in northern Iran, said: “You can’t describe the scale of the crisis the country is facing.

“Life goes on, but how it goes on is the issue. Inflation and currency depreciation has made life so costly - it’s as if you have to pay even for the oxygen you’re breathing,” she said. “But worse than all of this is you don’t have a right to say anything in protest. A lot of people think there should be another revolution, but I believe another revolution will make things worse. We need to fix the current situation.”

Ehsan, who sells vehicle parts in Karaj, a city west of Tehran that has been the focal point of recent protests, said: “The situation is dreadful. In a country that is sitting on oil, copper, gold, gas, people are left without electricity and water for four hours per day.”

At least one person is reported to have been killed during clashes between protesters and security guards in the city of Karaj in the past week.

Mohammad Eslami (34) the international director of Shenasa Venture Capital, said fluctuations in the exchange rate has made it “really hard to have an investment plan” in the country.

Mr Eslami said ordinary people’s purchasing power was likely to decrease still further under sanctions. “It will make life harder,” he predicted. The US sanctions will pose a challenge for Rouhani and other moderate politicians, he said.

“If the Rouhani administration shows a real will to defeat corruption, increase transparency, and restructuring the economy, they will turn the threat into an opportunity.”

Internally, many prominent Iranians believe the pressure from the US is mainly intended to provoke regime change.

The reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami, one of the most popular politicians inside Iran but who is currently sidelined, was quoted by local media as saying that efforts to engineer regime change would prove futile so long as people believed in reform.

Mr Khatami has set out 15 suggestions to Iranian leaders to bring the country out of the current political deadlock. His suggestions include the release of all political prisoners, and establishment of free atmosphere for political activities.

Some names have been changed to protect real identities.–Guardian