Cut Iran Oil Imports or Face Sanctions

Ann Santiago
June 28, 2018

The Iranian government is under domestic pressure, with a plunging rial currency sinking to a low of 90,000 against the dollar while living costs for the population continue to rise.

The notices had been expected since Trump in March pulled the USA out of the landmark agreement under which Iran was given relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Demonstrators initially vented their anger over high prices and alleged corruption, but the protests took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.

According to reports, among the slogans shouted and posters displayed by the protesters on Monday, in shopping malls and outside the parliament building in Tehran, were "Death to Palestine", "Help us, not Gaza", and "Leave Syria alone and deal with Iran". It remains unclear who is leading these protests, though analysts say hard-liners wanting to challenge Rouhani likely sparked the demonstrations at the end of a year ago.

Witnesses described a noticeable presence of riot police in Tehran on Tuesday, something which was hardly mentioned by Iran's state-controlled media.

Industries and trade minister Mohammad Shariatmadari slapped the import ban on 1,339 goods that could instead be produced within the country, Iran's Financial Tribune newspaper reported on Monday, quoting an official document. He did not elaborate on the number of people detained.

President Rouhani defended his economic record in a live televised address, saying the government's income hadn't shrunk and pinning the blame for Iran's currency woes on "foreign media propaganda".

"The atmosphere for the work, life and livelihood of the people must be secure", he said in a meeting with judiciary officials, according to his official website.

The threat of restored US sanctions has caused the rial to collapse, hurting business by driving up the cost of imports.

If India believed that just like the first round of Iran sanctions, it could negotiate a softer deal with the USA, those hopes were dashed. Trump, who campaigned on a promise of tearing up the deal, pulled America out of the deal in May. The last time round, India had worked out a rupee-rial exchange system for India to pay for Iranian oil.

Mr Rouhani's power within the government appears to be abating, with some openly calling for military officials to lead the country.

In response to the U.S.' statements, Iran responded in a similar way as it does in general.

Tehran has long denied wanting to build nuclear weapons, despite fears from the West and the United Nations.

"In the coming months we will see much more intervention in the economy by the government, a centrally imposed style of management by diktat", he said.

The official also said the working with other Middle East countries to increase production so the global oil supply is not harmed.

The senior United States official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, admitted that this would be unpopular.

The Iranian parliament showed the level of discontent over Rouhani's performance, issuing a letter, signed by 187 representatives - more than half of the total - asking that the president change his administration's economic team.

He also urged "honest talks" between the two nations, which Ahmadinejad said would be of interest to both.

As the protest began, Iranians called out to shopkeepers who wouldn't close, "Coward!"

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