Iran weighs response as U.S. sanctions bite
As Iranians awoke Tuesday to renewed U.S. sanctions that had been lifted by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the question on everyone’s mind remained: What happens now?
From deciphering President Donald Trump’s tweets on Iran - including one demanding “WORLD PEACE” - to trying to figure out how much their cratering currency is worth, Iranians on the streets appear divided on how to respond.
The same goes for inside its theocratic government. President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, has taken an increasingly confrontational line in recent weeks, applauded by the hard-liners who had long opposed him. Meanwhile, Rouhani seemed to suggest on live television the night before that direct talks with Trump could be possible - something of which North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-hu, who visited Tehran on Tuesday, has personal experience.
Whether Iran should choose a Singapore-style photo-op with the American president who backed out of the nuclear deal or abandon the unraveling accord and increase its uranium enrichment remains a fiercely debated question. But everyone agrees something has to be done soon, as sporadic, leaderless protests across the country of 80 million people only add to the pressure.
“Their sanctions are very effective, as you can see, the government should find a solution,” said Mahmoud, a 62-yearold former civil servant who only gave his first name. “They should first solve domestic problems because people are really drowning in poverty and misery.”
The newly imposed American sanctions target U.S. dollar financial transactions, Iran’s automotive sector, and the purchase of commercial planes and metals, including gold. Even-stronger sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and central bank are to be re-imposed in early November.
German car and truck maker Daimler AG on Tuesday said it was suspending its “very limited” activities in Iran and shuttering a representative office. European companies had known since Trump’s decision in May that sanctions were coming back. Airbus at that time suspended plane deliveries to Iran; of 98 orders, only one A321 had been delivered, plus two A330s that were sold to a company that leased them to an Iranian customer.
As uncertainty over the Iran nuclear deal grew after Trump entered the White House, Iran’s already-anemic economy nosedived. The country’s monthly inflation rate has hit double digits again and the national unemployment rate is 12.5 per cent. Among youth, it is even worse, with around 25 per cent out of a job.
An illegal street money exchanger poses with his U.S. banknotes in downtown Tehran, Iran, Tuesday.