Publicly, Iran’s leadership has remained defiant, insisting that the Islamic republic has learned to deal with punitive measures by the West and that the sanctions have bolstered Iran’s independence from the global economy.
“The sanctions imposed by the arrogant powers mainly target the Iranian people so that pressures wear down the Iranian people’s patience, separating them from the Islamic republic,” the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told senior members of Iran’s judiciary Wednesday. “But by God’s will, they will not be successful in this plot because they have not known our people and authorities yet.”
Iran’s position has long been that it is developing a peaceful nuclear energy program and has no desire to build nuclear weapons. The United States and other global powers are suspicious of Iran’s intentions and have sought to block it from developing the technological capacity for weaponization.
Prices for goods in Iran — foreign and domestic — have been steadily rising since the beginning of the year. But Iranians are readying themselves for another possible price jolt in the coming days. Law enforcement authorities this month announced that inspectors would be deployed in the country’s bazaars to watch for hoarding and price gouging.
Members of the Iranian religious and security establishment, meanwhile, have been using the rising prices as ammunition to attack domestic political rivals, with some of the blame directed at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his economic policies.
At the meeting in Qom, Makarem-Shirazi urged politicians to take a stronger role in responding to the public’s concerns. “The high prices have made people angry, and we have to do something about it,” he said.
Iran has been able to keep its economy afloat thus far thanks to relatively high global oil prices and vast gold and hard currency reserves. But declining energy prices in recent months have only added to the strain.
After years of increasing prosperity, standards of living for most Iranians are now in sharp decline. Purchasing power has been especially hard hit, thanks to a spike in inflation in January. While the rial stabilized against the dollar in the months that followed, it began to lose value again this week as the new sanctions took hold.
Last Saturday, the first day of the Iranian work week, the dollar was trading at just over 18,500 rials. But by Thursday it had crossed the 20,000 mark for the first time since late January. With a heavy reliance on imports for most household purchases, the decline in the rial’s value has been keenly felt.
Warrick reported from Washington.