President Hassan Rouhani promised his Iranian citizens on Tuesday that the government will be able to provide them with basic needs as economic protests escalate for the second day over the state’s failing economy.
Merchants in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar shut down their shops in strikes as hundreds of people gathered in the old city center to protest their country’s failing currency, which is in part a result of U.S. sanctions.
The Iranian rial has plunged to record lows against the U.S. dollar, which on Sunday was compared at $1 to 89,000 rials, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast. The country’s weak currency has disrupted trade and dramatically increased the cost of imports, causing massive citizen unrest and criticism of Rouhani.
After President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran Deal on May 8, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Washington also reimposed significant economic sanctions on Iran, which has damaged several areas of the country’s economy, including rising unemployment and high inflation.
While the protests appear to be aimed at the government’s handling of the economy, several people were chanting critical words toward Rouhani, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal.
“Our enemy is right here, but they falsely claim [our enemy] is the U.S.,” and similar sentiments echoed across social media, the WSJ reported.
Rouhani attempted to claim the falling value of the rial was a result of “foreign media propaganda” in a speech broadcasted live on state television, according to Reuters.
“Even in the worst case, I promise that the basic needs of Iranians will be provided,” he said. “We have enough foreign currency to inject into the market.”
Monday’s protests began to turn slightly violent, as security forces began to spray tear gas at the protesters, according to videos posted online.
The government is attempting to quell the unrest and re-stabilize the economy by controlling prices, including banning imports on thousands of goods, in response to the U.S. sanctions.
The “blame the USA” game isn’t new, and it’s not just Rouhani who is preaching it these days. Iran’s religious leader is at it too.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Washington for the state’s economic woes and called on Iranians to “bring America to its knees.”
Merchants shut down their shops Tuesday as hundreds gathered in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar to protest the state’s failing currency and the government’s handling of the economy.
President Hassan Rouhani tried to calm protesters by promising them that Iran will be able to provide them with basic needs and has the ability inject foreign currency into their markets.
Khamenei took a harder stance Wednesday when he demanded the judiciary punish those “who disrupt economic security,” according to a Reuters report, a clear attempt to dissuade citizens who plan to protest in the future.
“The atmosphere for the work, life and livelihood of the people must be secure, and the judiciary must confront those who disrupt economic security,” he said in a meeting with judiciary officials.
The Iranian unrest signals effects of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Since then, Washington has reimposed significant economic sanctions on Iran and has more planned for the future.
“We will take problems. We will take pressure. But we will not sacrifice our independence,” Rouhani said on state television on Tuesday.
The Iranian rial has plunged to record lows against the U.S. dollar, which on Sunday was compared at $1 to 89,000 rials, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.
The sanctions also have the potential to disrupt Iran’s future plans to expand its oil industry, Mehrdad Emadi, an Iranian economist who leads energy risk analysis at London’s Betamatrix consultancy, told Reuters.
Emadi predicts the sanctions could cause Iran’s crude oil exports to drop by between 500,000 and 800,000 bpd.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on a trip to India Thursday urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to back away from dependence on Iranian oil.
India seemed to respond that claims India’s oil ministry has asked refiners to plan for a ‘drastic reduction or zero’ oil imports from Iran, according to Reuters report.