Last week, as my family sat around our Thanksgiving meal, we spoke about the normal things; how the week had gone at work and at school. Later, after progressing through national elections, our conversation led to international issues, in particular, Iran’s economy and political problems resulting from U.S. and European sanctions.
The big question was, “What is the objective of the sanctions?” Is the objective to halt Iran's nuclear program, or is it to create social unrest which would lead to the overthrow of the current regime?
The sanctions were put into effect because of Iran’s refusal to comply with international obligations on its nuclear program, its sponsorship of terrorism and its human rights violations. Their objective is to come to an agreement with the Iranian nuclear program.
Sanctions began in the 1980s, making it illegal for the U.S. and European countries to buy or sell directly to Iran. The U.S. sanctions have increasingly tightened, adding more restrictions to the products and services that normally have been exported or imported. An example is Iran’s oil exports. Since the sanctions began, the oil exports from Iran have dropped 45 percent, causing Iran to lose millions of dollars.
Sanctions have also caused prices to skyrocket. Unemployment has grown to 24 percent, and inflation has risen to 30 percent. The Iranian currency, the rial, has lost 40 percent to 60 percent of its value, causing Iranians to exchange the rial for foreign currencies as the rial loses value.
Reports of protests by merchants, the opposing political parties and even Iranian government officials criticizing the Iranian president have emerged. There have been reports of social unrest where the police were called to suppress the protesters, and two opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, were put under house arrest.
It looks to me like the sanctions were put into place to stop Iran’s nuclear program by creating government instability and social unrest, which would lead to a change in policies. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran’s nuclear program has slowed down because of its inability to obtain foreign inputs and technology.
The sanctions were put in place because of Iran’s disputed nuclear program, and remain because of the Iran’s unwillingness to discuss its nuclear program. Our government says the sanctions are working, and the proof is Iran’s increasingly bad economy.
Finally, the questions left on my mind and everyone else’s at the Thanksgiving meal were: What will happen if Iran's government does not agree to discuss its nuclear program? If its economy collapses, will the government survive?
I believe Iran’s economy will continue downward, leading to a possible change in government unless changes in policies are made.