For more than four decades the Iranian regime has mastered the art of lies and deception. But now they have a leader who has taken duplicity to a new level. In an address to a press conference at the end of August, Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian president, assured 85 million hungry and impoverished Iranians that the nation’s economy is booming. Raisi, dubbed ‘The Butcher of Tehran’ for his notorious role as an executioner, boasted that economic indicators have grown and progressed in all fields. He claimed that inflation was plummeting and unemployment had fallen to 8.2%. President Raisi’s assertions appear to have been undermined by his own state-controlled media. The state-run Etemad newspaper reported soaring inflation for basic foodstuffs including poultry up by 203%, meat by 318%, cooking oil by 328%, pasta by 283%, sugar by 253%, yogurt by 307%, and eggs by 161%. Even applying tampered statistics utilized by the government, the current rate of inflation in Iran is 39.8%, while unemployment has risen to 9.7%, with youth unemployment at 16.2%.
Tough Western sanctions, and decades of corruption and economic mismanagement, have plunged the Islamic Republic into a severe crisis. Iran’s currency, the rial, dropped to a record low, wiping out people’s life savings and making even some basic goods unaffordable. The rial is currently valued at 400,000 to the U.S. dollar, down from 32,000 to the dollar when Barack Obama’s flawed nuclear agreement was signed in 2015. It now takes almost a barrow-load of rials to purchase a loaf of bread. Since nationwide protests began last September, following the murder in custody of the young Kurdish girl Mahsa Amini by the so-called ‘morality police’, the rial has lost around 20% of its value. The uprising and the regime’s brutal reaction to it, killing 750 and jailing more than 33,000 protesters, has had its own adverse economic impact. Repeated internet shutdowns affected small businesses that rely on social media for advertising and sales, and the overall turmoil appears to have hurt consumer demand and the broader business climate. Electricity shortages and a water crisis have had a serious impact on industry and agriculture, while the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 525,000 lives, and rising international prices caused by the war in Ukraine, have further exacerbated the regime’s economic woes.
Countries that previously imported Iranian crude oil or condensate, such as India, South Korea, Japan, and some EU nations, have refrained from doing so, because of U.S. sanctions. Nevertheless, oil exports have been slightly higher during the Biden administration than during the end of the Trump administration, largely due to a lack of aggressive sanctions enforcement by the Americans. The regime’s main oil exports are primarily to China, with smaller volumes to Syria and Venezuela. It has also shipped some oil to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which was probably re-exported to Asia. The mullahs are still forlornly hoping for western sanctions to be lifted in exchange for their renewed compliance with the defunct nuclear deal. But their brutal crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations, the execution of young protesters and egregious supply of weaponized drones to Vladimir Putin for his illegal war in Ukraine, have widened ruptures with the West and scuppered any chance of a revival. In frustration, the mullahs have dismantled surveillance cameras erected by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) to monitor their nuclear sites and claim to have enriched uranium to 83.7% purity, a short step away from the 90% purity required to make a nuclear bomb. In any case, there is mounting evidence that the theocratic regime used the cover of the nuclear deal from the outset, as a ruse to camouflage their race to develop a nuclear weapon.
According to published statistics, at least 25 million Iranians are now struggling to survive on daily incomes that have fallen below the international poverty line, despite a pledge made by President Raisi in February 2022, when he issued an order to eliminate absolute poverty within two weeks! While the regime’s officials attempt to lay the blame for Iran’s economic collapse on Western sanctions, responsibility should more accurately be directed towards the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the mullahs’ Gestapo, which controls over 70% of the country’s economy. The IRGC pay no taxes and are answerable only to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979 that brought the mullahs to power, the IRGC have systematically squeezed out the private sector, hindering economic growth. Their venal corruption has seen senior IRGC officials living in luxury, many with opulent villas in Turkey and other countries in the Middle East, while ordinary Iranians starve. But their dependence on oil revenues has been reduced to a trickle by sanctions, curtailing their ability to finance Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Shi’ia militias in Iraq.
The IRGC’s raison d'être is exclusively summed up in domestic suppression and interference in the affairs of other countries with the aim of expanding the Iranian regime's malign influence. Meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and particularly exporting terrorism and fundamentalism, has for years been a strategic pillar for Tehran’s survival. The IRGC’s warmongering expansionism in the Middle East led to their listing as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. However, although senior figures attached to the IRGC have been sanctioned by the EU and UK, there has been ongoing resistance to blacklisting the entire outfit.
For far too long Iran and the IRGC have taken advantage of the West’s appeasement policy, not only engulfing the entire Middle East in flames, but also oppressing the Iranian people through atrocious and repeated human rights violations and crimes against humanity. Blacklisting the IRGC in the UK and Europe is long overdue and will be a first and necessary step in actually curbing Iranian atrocities. As 85 million Iranians know, there can be no hope of reform within thetheocratic dictatorship. The only solution for the Iranian people, their economy and also for peace and stability in the region, is regime change in Tehran.