Iranians react to US sanctions as new reality begins to bite

Posted at 9:52 AM, Aug 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 11:52:39-04

Even before the United States reimposed a raft of sanctions on Iran Tuesday, the mere threat of them had begun to hit home for people in the capital Tehran.

Take Hamid, a 29-year-old who recently lost his job at car manufacturer Renault. Like a number of businesses in Iran, Hamid said, Renault has been hit by the collapse of the Iranian rial, which has plunged in value since US President Donald Trump declared he would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Then, in July, Renault said it was likely to put its business development in Iran on hold as the company intended to “comply full with US sanctions,” Reuters reported.

Now working as an unlicensed taxi driver, Hamid estimates that his income has gone down by around 70%, forcing him to move back in with his parents where he can live rent-free.

“I should be the one to support my mother and father, not the other way around,” he told CNN.

He now hopes the economic situation forces President Hassan Rouhani to hold talks with his US counterpart in the coming weeks.

“I am not sure who is to blame for this dire condition of the economy, but I tend to think that Trump had something to do with it. They both made dangerously hostile statements and threats, but now they are sending signals that they want to talk with each other. I wish they would,” he added.

“They should at least try talking before adopting irreversible hostile policies and measures against each other.”

Hamid’s story is not uncommon. The currency crash has led to a sharp rise in unemployment and spiraling inflation because of the cost of imported goods.

This round of sanctions hits the Iranian purchase or acquisition of US dollar banknotes and of gold and precious metals, among other things. They also target the country’s large automotive sector.

It brings more worry to people in Tehran already dealing with a flatlining economy and increased joblessness, especially among the country’s youth.

Five or six years ago, dry cleaner owner Majid said he worked “non-stop, all day,” but now he turns off the machines to save electricity and cleaning liquid after three hours.

He says the price he pays for detergent and other chemicals has doubled in the past four months and that he can’t increase his prices to make up the difference.

“I even have to give discounts to keep my customers,” he said, adding, “I don’t know how long I can stay open if this keeps up.”

In Tehran, some people were starting to fear the worst this week after the US reimposed sanctions Tuesday.

The economic instability has led to sporadic protests in Tehran and throughout the country that started late last year and have persisted ahead of the return of the sanctions.

A former bank manager, also named Majid, told CNN that Rouhani needs to engage with the US if he is to resuscitate the country’s economy.

Speaking on Monday night, Rouhani said he was willing to hold talks with Trump “right now,” adding that he did not have any preconditions.

Majid, the former bank manager, also pointed to the currency collapse.

“The central bank is largely at fault for not supplying the needed dollars, and the fact that our non-oil exports are so small also worked against the country’s economy,” he said.

“It looks like we have to talk to the Americans if we want things to change and improve.”