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 Iran Sanctions: A Look at How We Got Here

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PostSubject: Iran Sanctions: A Look at How We Got Here   Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:38 pm

The country’s economy is teetering. Charts and photos reveal the path to this point and what is at stake for Iran

U.S. sanctions on Iran date to 1979, when the Carter administration froze Iranian assets in response to the Iran hostage crisis, in which 52 Americans were held for more than a year at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

Americans were held hostage for 444 days after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the U.S. Embassy in support of the Iranian Revolution. PHOTO: MOHSEN SHANDIZ/SYGMA/GETTY IMAGES

Sanctions pressure rose in the late 1990s and early 2000s under the Clinton and Bush administrations, responding to Iran’s advancing nuclear program and its support for Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia, and its support for Palestinian militant groups fighting Israel.

The Obama administration’s threats of penalties for non-American companies that do business with Iran had a chilling effect on Iran’s ability to trade its oil and conduct transactions in the global banking system. Those sanctions went into place mainly between 2010 and 2013.

President Obama saw the sanctions as a means to an end: getting Iran to negotiate on an agreement to reduce its uranium enrichment and allow international inspections. Calculating that Iran posed less of a threat if it made nuclear concessions and reconnected with the global economy, China, Russia and European countries joined the U.S. in discussions with Iran over such a deal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, far left, speaks with Iranian officials ahead of a nuclear negotiating session in Lausanne, Switzerland, in March 2015. PHOTO: BRIAN SNYDER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

After almost two years of talks, six world powers, including the U.S., agreed to a nuclear deal on July 14, 2015, leading to the removal of the most economically damaging sanctions against the Islamic Republic. For the Obama administration, it was considered a major foreign-policy coup. For Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, it vindicated a philosophy that constructive engagement with the world could improve Iran’s economic fortunes.

An Iranian man flashes the victory sign and holds a portrait of President Hassan Rouhani during celebrations in Tehran after a nuclear deal was struck. PHOTO: ATTA KENARE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The nuclear deal’s implementation went smoothly at first. But it rankled Mr. Obama’s conservative opponents, who thought it didn’t go far enough in limiting Iran’s bellicose activity in the region or reducing its danger to Israel. Those critics included Donald Trump, who as a candidate in July 2016 said the deal “will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated.” On the campaign trail, he promised repeatedly to end it.

As threats to the deal grew, Iran’s leaders faced mounting internal trouble. While the deal had helped boost oil exports, the livelihoods of average Iranians didn’t improve much, with unemployment holding stubbornly in the double digits.
Unemployment Rate QuarterlySource: Statistical Center of Iran via CEIC Data

This led to growing public discontent across Iran. On Dec. 28, 2017, some of the most widespread protests in a decade broke out, focusing initially on the economy before expanding into a more-general critique of the ruling system. They lasted about two weeks before a security crackdown ended them.

Iranian students clash with riot police during an antigovernment protest around the University of Tehran on Dec. 30, 2017. PHOTO: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK/EPA

While backing out of the deal wasn’t an immediate priority for Mr. Trump after taking office, he turned his sights on the pact earlier this year. On May 8, 2018, he made good on his campaign promise, compounding Iran’s political and economic uncertainty.

President Trump holds up a memorandum that reinstates sanctions on Iran after he announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. PHOTO: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

Companies were given periods of 90 and 180 days to wind down business authorized under the nuclear deal.

U.S. Companies That Were Doing Business with Iran

The first round of reimposed sanctions came Aug. 7, affecting Iran’s aviation and automotive sectors, as well as its trade in gold and currencies. But the second round—the one going into effect Monday—is expected to have a much more economically devastating effect. These latest sanctions will hit Iran’s financial system, oil and shipping industries. The International Monetary Fund has downgraded its forecasts for Iran’s economic growth.

Gross Domestic Product

A slide in the value of Iran’s currency this year has added to domestic pressures. It took about 42,000 rials to buy a dollar at the beginning of the year. It now takes more than 144,000.

Iranian rials per U.S. dollar

The  weakening currency has made imports more expensive, which contributes to soaring inflation. Food, transportation, housing and medical costs are all rising at more than a double-digit annual clip, straining Iranians’ budgets.

Consumer prices
See data source

The government wants to right the economy, but its measures, including planned handouts of food to the poor and allowing the central bank to intervene in currency markets, have yet to show concrete results.

Pedestrians browse food stalls at a street market in Tehran in January 2018. PHOTO: ALI MOHAMMADI/BLOOMBERG NEWS

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