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The Iran sanctions fallacy

Posted by alanmirs on August 27, 2011

International sanctions have exacerbated the pain of the middle class stuggling with high levels of unemployment.
Reza Marashi Last Modified: 26 Aug 2011 17:12
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The economy, and its poor performance, is a major concern for average Iranians [GALLO/GETTY]

Iranians’ displeasure with their government is palpable and transcends demographics. Before the contested 2009 presidential election, few were satisfied with the government’s performance. Since then, this displeasure has only increased – but not for the reasons that many assume. More than politics, the state of Iran’s economy is the greatest source of discontent. Despite record profits from high oil prices, many Iranians are forced to navigate an economy plagued with unemployment, inflation and corruption. However, the assumption in the West that sanctions will aggravate Iranian government mismanagement to the point of popular revolt is largely misguided.

This presents an arduous task for American policymakers. Publicly, they justify broad-based sanctions as punishment for the Iranian government’s refusal to yield to pressure over its nuclear programme. That is a hard sell to even the most liberal 30-something in urban Tehran – and the majority of Iranians residing outside the capital are far less progressive and politicised. They embrace neither sanctions nor their own governments’ malfeasance. From Ahvaz to Mashhad, Iranians outside Tehran are undoubtedly dissatisfied with the status quo, but their political discussions focus more on skyrocketing prices and dwindling employment rather than the lack of political and social freedoms.

During my experience living and traveling throughout Iran, I spoke regularly with global business executives, entrepreneurs, bazaaris, intellectuals and students. I witnessed first-hand their struggles managing day-to-day and future planning of business affairs in a damaged economic climate. Conversation about the impact of mismanagement and sanctions on their businesses and families was a frequent topic of conversation at meetings and social gatherings. When I speak with those same friends and associates today, they are vexed by an environment in which mismanagement persists and sanctions increasingly bite. Many Iranians are unclear about how to manage the present and plan for the future, as this toxic combination limits their ability to make business, career and investment decisions.

Potential unreached 

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