WASHINGTON, D.C. — Roughly a year ago, the United States Government decided to leave the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. After leaving the agreement, the Trump administration decided to reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran. This decision has had three main impacts on Iran with the brunt of the effects felt by impoverished Iranians.
Sanctions Have Crippled the Rial
The Rial, Iran’s national currency, has fallen steeply since the U.S. reimposed sanctions in 2018. In 2015 and 2016, the Rial’s exchange rate hovered around 30,000 Rials per one U.S. dollar. However, once U.S. sanctions were imposed, limiting Iran’s purchase of the U.S. dollar, the Rial’s value plummeted to 120,000 Rials per one U.S. dollar. The declining value of the Rial has exacerbated Iran’s difficulties with inflation.
According to the World Bank, “Higher import prices from the devaluation (of the Rial) are expected to push inflation back above 30 percent in the coming years…” Iran’s inflation crisis has disproportionately harmed struggling Iranians. Measurements carried out by the Statistical Center of Iran have found the prices of red meat, poultry, milk, cheese, eggs and vegetables have all increased by at least 38 percent in the past year. These economic challenges are forcing more people into poverty.
Sanctions Are Harming the Economy and Quality of Life
Iran’s economy shrunk by an estimated 4 percent in 2018 in large part due to restrictions on their oil industry. Oil production was almost 4 million barrels a day before sanctions were reimposed, but now they have fallen to around 2.5 million barrels a day. Oil exports, a pillar of the Iranian economy, have fallen from 2.3 million BPD to 1.1 million since the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran. Iran’s economy is extremely reliant on its energy production. This decrease has affected nearly the entire population.
U.S. sanctions on Iran have demoralized middle class and poor Iranians to the point where many consider leaving Iran as their only option. When asked why he is attempting to leave Iran, 27-year-old Farshid Andikjou said, “Give me a good reason to stay in my country. What will I achieve 10 years from now? I’d rather try my chance somewhere else.” Others like Shaghayegh Safari, a 38-year-old single mother, claim the weak economy forced them to make serious sacrifices to their quality of life.
U.S. Sanctions Could Lead to Further Destabilization in Iran
A shrinking economy and dwindling supplies of essentials like medicine and food are causing some Iranians to lose faith in their government. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Iranians that negotiating with the western powers would lead to more prosperity for Iranians, but his crowning achievement of diplomacy lasted only three years. Instead, Iranian conservatives can use the failure of the Iran Nuclear Deal as evidence that Iran should reject diplomacy and strengthen its military for protection.
There is a chance this strategy could gain traction with Iranian voters, considering the hardships they have had to endure under Rouhani’s attempt to negotiate with the west. However, many experts fear conservatives returning to power in Iran could lead to a U.S. invasion. This would undoubtedly lead to an immeasurable amount of damage to Iranians, particularly the most marginalized groups. U.S. sanctions on Iran could set off a chain of events that would lead to widespread destabilization of Iran and even more suffering of innocent Iranians.
Throughout the world, the United States is spending billions of dollars trying to help bring millions of people out of poverty. However, U.S. sanctions on Iran, which are punishing millions of innocent impoverished Iranians, run directly against this goal. It is time the U.S. government recognizes that its strategy of dealing with Iran is harming the same disadvantaged people it claims to be helping in other countries.
– Myles McBride Roach