Washington points to rial’s drop as proof sanctions on Iran are working

Currency falls 16 percent in one day as restrictions on Islamic Republic’s economy take toll

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

A bazaar in Tehran in 2011 (photo credit: CC-BY Kamshots, Flickr)
A bazaar in Tehran in 2011 (photo credit: CC-BY Kamshots, Flickr)

The precipitous drop experienced by Iran’s currency over the last several weeks is proof that sanctions imposed on the country to curb its nuclear program are working, the US State Department said Monday.

Iran’s currency fell 16 percent earlier in the day to hit a record low against the US dollar and other foreign currencies in street trading.

“From our perspective, this speaks to the unrelenting and increasingly successful international pressure that we are all bringing to bear on the Iranian economy,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. “It’s under incredible strain.”

Street traders said Monday the rial reached 34,500 rials to the dollar. It was 29,500 rials on Sunday. The current official rate is 12,260 rials to the dollar, but that is used only for special purposes such as importing food and medicine.

The West has imposed what it says are crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking industries, hoping to push the country away from enriching uranium for what much of the world believes is a military nuclear program. Tehran claims its program is peaceful.

The rial’s fall came despite the country’s inauguration last week of a new hard currency trading center to undercut the black market.

On Tuesday morning, Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel Radio that the sanctions, however harsh, have not succeeded in stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

Nuland said even if centrifuges were still spinning, the efficacy of the sanctions were evidenced by Tehran’s willingness to come to the negotiating table with the P5+1 group of Western powers over the nuclear program.

“This speaks to the fact that we have said these are the most punishing sanctions we have ever been able to amass as an international community, and they are very important for trying to get Iran’s attention on the important denuclearization work,” she said. “We don’t think that Iran would ever have come to the P5+1 negotiating table at all if they weren’t under the kind of pressure that we’re talking about.”

The Iran central bank in Tehran. (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Ensie & Matthias, Flickr)
The Iran central bank in Tehran. (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Ensie & Matthias, Flickr)

Several rounds of talks with the P5+1 have led to little progress, though officials have called them “constructive.” Jerusalem maintains that Iran is using the talks as a stalling tactic.

A recent report by the Foreign Ministry confirmed that sanctions were taking a heavy toll on Iran’s economy, with the drop of the rial pointed to as one bellwether, according to a report in Haaretz, which accessed the leaked report.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was reported saying that the sanctions on Iran were working, telling Haaretz that they could soon push the populace to overthrow the regime in Tehran.

Proving the sanctions are working is important to the West, which is seeking to calm Israeli fears over Iran’s nuclear program. On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN that despite restrictions on Iran’s economy, Tehran would soon reach nuclear weapons capability, and Israel would not be able to sit idly by.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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