The recent US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal has stirred a new fierce debate between opponents and supporters of the notorious agreement. On one side, those who believe Trump’s decision was the worst possible option and, on the other, those who sustain that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) not only did not ameliorate the economic situation of average Iranian families, but also that it emboldened the Islamic Republic of Iran to expand further its presence and influence in the neighbouring countries.
Syria expert Stephen Heydemann estimated in 2015 that Iran spends $15-20 billion per year supporting Assad, while the Foundation for Defense of Democracies calculates between $700-$800 million spent annually to support Hezbollah. Hassan Nasrallah, the current Secretary-General of the Lebanese political and paramilitary party has once said that “as long as there is money in Iran, Hezbollah has money – and we will not apologies for that”.
Iran’s bluff toward the West
According to Mashregh News, since Rouhani took office in 2013, more than half of the factories in Iran went bankrupt or semi-bankrupt with a minimum production capacity. Some of these factories have been around for more than half a century, such as Darugar Holding Co (after 90 years); ARJ, Iran’s oldest appliance maker (81 years); Varamin Sugar Factory, Sahand Steel, Ghoo Frying Oil and Pars Electric.
At the begging of his term as president, one American dollar was equal to 3,180 Tomans. Following the signing of JCPOA, it raised to 3,330 Tomans and after the intervention of the government the dollar reached 6,000 Tomans. That represents a 73% increase in the exchange rate from the time the deal was signed until the days before the US decided to pull out. Rouhani’s manipulation of the exchange rate has been simply an attempt to counter the exiting of capital due to political instability as well as to artificially balance the budget deficit. . A budget that arguably could have been enough for all Iranians to share if the government was not involved in proxy wars in neighboring countries.
Apart from the recession itself, what has made the situation even harder for the Iranian people, is Rouhani’s decision to cut cash subsidies to the population by $5.3 billion, excluding 23-40 million low-income Iranians from receiving much needed financial support. At the same time, the central government has increased the budget allocated for the IRGC by 58%, from $48 Billion in 2017 to $76 billion in 2018.
Beyond the economy
While most of the West celebrated the nuclear deal as a positive watershed in its relations with Tehran, an alarming rise in the number of arrests of environmental activists and “suicide” of detainees under the custody of Islamic Republic of Iran police all occurred during Rouhani’s presidency. Furthermore, according to Amnesty International, in 2017 “Iran executed at least 507 people, accounting for 60% of all confirmed executions in the region.”
At the same time, various sectors of the Iranian work force such as teachers and blue color workers along with the unemployed have been organizing large-scale strikes for months. A trend, in fact, that has proven to have no end near, as Kurds announced that they will return on strike after the month of Ramadan, as more and more workers from different industries are joining the mobilizations.