Iran's Currency Falling Close To A Dangerous Benchmark Against US Dollar | Iran International

Iran's Currency Falling Close To A Dangerous Benchmark Against US Dollar

Iran’s rial on Thursday continued to tumble against major currencies reaching an all-time low of 286,500 against the US dollar, amid fears of more US sanctions and no end to the country’s economic crisis.

Approaching the important milestone of 300,000 rials to the dollar means the battered currency has fallen ten-fold in the past three years, when President Donald Trump first signaled his intention to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in 2017 and then in May 2018 officially announced the US withdrawal, imposing crippling sanctions.

The most damaging has been full sanctions on Iran’s oil exports which have deprived the government of its major foreign currency revenue source. With a 50 percent budget deficit, the Central Bank of Iran has no choice but print money, which further devalues the currency and leads to hyperinflation.

In 1978 before the revolution that toppled the monarchy the dollar stood at 70 rials. This means that 10,000 rials could buy $142. Now the same amount is worth just 3.5 cents.

The fall of the rial is not only because of sanctions. Economists maintain that the Islamic Republic’s economic system is inefficient and corrupt. The major fall in the value of rial happened before any significant sanctions were imposed on Tehran, when the dollar climbed from 70 rials to nearly 20,000.

A business and economy publication in Tehran, Donya’e Eghtesad, wrote on Thursday that people do not need to check the exchange rate on their phones. They just need to go to a fruit stand and look at the price of bananas.


We'll Work To Ensure Iran Will Not Obtain Nuclear Bomb: New American Ambassador To UN

In her confirmation hearing, President Biden’s choice for UN ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she will make every effort to ensure that Iran does not gain access to nuclear weapons.

Addressing the question about the threat of nuclear-armed Iran, the ambassador-designate said: “We will work and make every effort to ensure that the Iranians do not gain access to a nuclear weapon.”

She said the United States needs to work with its allies and friends but also other members of the security council (meaning Russia and China) to hold Iran accountable.

“I will work across all of those areas to ensure that we get the support of our allies, but to see where we can find common ground with the Russians and the Chinese to put more pressure on the Iranians, to push them back into strict compliance,” she added.

Thomas-Greenfield also stated that she finds the anti-Israel BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) unacceptable and it verges on antisemitism, and said it is important that they would not be allowed to have a voice at the UN.

She went on to say that the Abrahamic Accord has offered an opportunity to work in a different way with countries that have recognized Israel, adding: “If they’re going to recognize Israel in the Abraham Accords, they need to recognize Israel’s rights at the United Nations.”

Iranian Student Associations: State Must Provide Vaccine Immediately

Dozens of student associations across Iran released a joint statement criticizing the Islamic Republic for covering up the coronavirus crisis, and demanded transparent efforts to provide vaccine for the citizens.

The 48 student organizations wrote in their joint statement that the lack of transparency in the efforts made to supply credible vaccines have caused discontent among the public.

The statement also criticizes the policy that limits the sources of vaccines, referring to Leader Khamenei’s recent ban on American and British vaccines.

The student associations also emphasized the right to free healthcare, criticized “arrogance and superstition”, and emphasized people’s right to decide their own destiny.

After the recent ban on American and British vaccines by Ali Khamenei, Iranian media and officials also released statements and reports in support of the decision and questioned the effectiveness of Western vaccines.

The students also demanded the lifting of the “unreasonable” restrictions on the vaccine and expressed concern about the issue turning into a political game inside and outside the country.

In the end, the student associations emphasized the importance of the immediate supply of free vaccines and their fair distribution. They also mentioned the possibility of monitoring the supply and distribution of vaccines to people and groups without discrimination.

Previously, workers unions, teachers unions, and pensioners also joined the national movement for demanding vaccine and criticized the ban on American and British vaccines.

Jailed Iranian-German Woman Faces Pressure To Admit Guilt

The daughter of Nahid Taghavi, a 66-year-old Iranian-German woman imprisoned in Iran, has accused the prosecution judge of threatening her mother that she will remain in jail unless she admits guilt. Mariam Claren made the claim in a press release on the 100th day of her mother’s detention.

“The judge said my mother’s case will not be brought to court until she confirms her charges,” Claren wrote in a press release, which she has shared on Twitter. Claren quoted an observation from Heribert Hirte, a leading German legal scholar and Bundestag member, that by accepting the indictment Taghavi would be making “a kind of admission of guilt.” 

Taghavi, an architect, was arrested on October 16 at her home in Tehran and has been held in solitary confinement on undisclosed security-related charges at Evin Prison, Tehran. Iran does not recognize dual nationality and has denied her German consular access.

According to Claren, a relative was recently allowed to visit Taghavi in the prison’s ward 2A, which is under the supervision of the Revolutionary Guards. She said the relative had also met with the prosecution judge, Haji Moradi, who had refused the lawyer chosen by Taghavi and ruled she could be represented only by “trusted” lawyers. This amounted to the prosecution appointing the defense, Claren said in her press release.

Amnesty International in November expressed concern that Taghavi might be exposed to torture and other abuse including denial of medical treatment.  On January 8 Claren started a petition to urge the German government to campaign for her mother’s release.

For the First Time In Biden Era US Flies B-52 Bomber Over Mideast

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.S. military said Wednesday it again flew a B-52 bomber over the Middle East “to deter potential aggression” amid tensions with Iran, the first such flight under President Joe Biden.

The B-52 flew nonstop from Louisiana's Barksdale Air Force Base into the region earlier in the day. The plane went over both the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, according to flight-tracking data.

The U.S. military's Central Command later published images of the bomber flying alongside Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s.

While not mentioning Iran in its statement, Central Command said the flight was meant to “showcase the U.S. commitment to regional security.”

The flights, the third-such operation this year, had become common in the last months of former President Donald Trump's administration. Trump's 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers sparked a series of escalating incidents in the region.

Biden has expressed a desire to return to the deal if Iran honors the deal's limits on its nuclear program.

China Asks Indonesia For 'Fair Investigation' Of Seized Tankers With Iran Oil

China said on Wednesday it was seeking details about 25 of its nationals who were among 61 crew on two supertankers seized by Indonesia on suspicion of illegally transferring oil.

Indonesia said on Sunday it had seized the vessels after they were detected making the transfer from Iranian-flagged MT Horse to Panamanian-flagged MT Freya, causing an oil spill.

Indonesia said the seizure was not related to U.S. sanctions, which Washington imposed in a bid to shut off Iran's oil exports in a dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme.

"We welcome the Indonesian Coast Guard efforts to counter illicit maritime activity," a U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta told Reuters, saying Washington supported efforts to ensure IMO standards for safety and environmental compliance were upheld.

The MT Horse, owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company, and MT Freya, managed by Shanghai Future Ship Management Co, were detected off Indonesia's Kalimantan island.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said 25 of the crew members were Chinese, without saying whether the crew were all on one vessel or split between both. "Our embassy has expressed concern to Indonesia," Zhao said. He also said China called on Indonesia to conduct an investigation "fairly and in accordance with the law".

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters there had been "initial communication" with China and Iran, and said further discussion would depend on results from the investigation.

Iran's said on Monday the seizure of its tanker was over a technical issue and that it had asked Indonesia to provide more details.

Iran has been accused of seeking to conceal the destination of its oil sales by disabling tracking systems on its tankers.

The Indonesian authorities said the ships concealed their identity by not showing national flags, turning off automatic identification systems and failing to respond to a radio call.

Reporting by Reuters

Russian Sputnik Vaccines To Reach Iran By Mid-February

The first shipment of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine will reach Iran before the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, which is celebrated on Bahman 22 (or February 11), Mahmoud Vaezi, presidential chief of staff, announced on Wednesday.

Vaezi said a contract would be signed within days to import 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V in three stages before Iranian New Year on March 21. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday in Moscow expressed Iran’s “hope to be able to purchase” the Sputnik V vaccine and to start joint production. Zarif confirmed that Tehran is also in talks with China and India over vaccines.

Vaezi said Iran had purchased 16.8 million doses through the World Health Organization’s Covax facility but did not identify the particular vaccine. Covax works for equitable access to Covid vaccines for all countries, regardless of purchasing power.

On January 8 Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that US and UK vaccines should not be trusted. Hamidreza Jamshidi, Secretary of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, announced on Saturday, that Iran would buy the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India’s Serum Institute, who make it under licence.

Politicization of vaccines has been criticized by President Hassan Rouhani, who arguedDecember 30 that “arguing over whether it’s better to import the vaccine or produce it is like arguing over whether our weapons should be made domestically or imported at the time of war.”

While cases and deaths have lately fallen in Iran, the director of the Coronavirus Taskforce for Greater Tehran warned this week of an “alarming” spread of Covid in the city and called for stricter protocols.

Iran Watchdog Not Inclined To Approve Bill Against Financing Of Terrorism

There has been no change in Iran’s constitutional Expediency Council regarding opposition to two financial bills required by the international watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the deputy chairman of the Council said on Wednesday.

The two bills approved by Iran’s parliament in 2018 would incorporate the requirements of two international conventions into the country’s legal system and obligate Iran to honor their requirements.

The FATF has required Iran to accept the international convention to combat financing of terrorism (CFT) and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the Palermo Convention. Although parliament passed the appropriate legislation, political hardliners dominating constitutional watchdog bodies have refused to endorse the bills.

Iran’s international banking relations depend on a bill of health by FATF overseeing country compliance of international laws for financial integrity. FATF has placed Iran on its ‘blacklist’ which means Iran’s banks are not considered protected from money laundering and financing of terrorism.

Ali Ahmadi, the deputy chairman of the Expediency Council told local media that members are more open to approve the Palermo Convention and it is possible to endorse that and wait for reciprocity from FATF.

The hardliners say that accepting the convention against financing of terrorism will limit Iran’s ability to support Palestinian groups, the Lebanese Hezbollah and other similar non-state actors. Some of these groups are recognized as terrorist entities by various governments and international organizations and the reason for FATF’s insistence to comply with its norms is exactly to prevent illegal and covert support to them.


IDF Chief Warns US Against Rejoining Iran Nuclear Deal, Talks Plans Of Attack

Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff General Aviv Kochavi warned the Biden administration that a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, or even a “slightly improved” one would be a mistake, and added that IDF has prepared accurate, destructive military options to thwart a possible Iranian nuclear breakthrough.

General Kochavi said he has ordered his forces to step up preparations for possible offensive action against Iran during the coming year. General Kochavi has also requested an additional NIS 3 billion (almost $1 billion) to finance the possible attack on Iran.

"We are taking care of these plans and will develop them during the coming year. Those who decide on carrying them out, of course, are the political leaders. But these plans have to be on the table," he said.

Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20 percent last week, well in excess of the threshold set out in its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and a short technical jump from the 90 percent level of enrichment needed to produce weapons.

Israeli officials, including Kochavi, and many Trump administration officials believe that the Islamic Republic is in a much weaker position than in 2015 after years of sanctions as part of the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.

They say that any new deal should eliminate "sunset" provisions that phase out certain limits on Iran's nuclear activities, address Iran's long-range missile program, and its military involvement and support of terrorism across the Middle East.

President Biden had previously announced that he would be willing to renegotiate and return to the nuclear deal if Iran would return to full compliance. However, Biden’s pick for Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a return to the nuclear deal is “way off”.

Bloomberg: US Intends To Seize An Iranian Oil Shipment

Bloomberg reported that the US intends to seize a shipment of two million barrels of possible Iranian oil sailing to the US in another attempt to block the Islamic Republic’s oil exports.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, the order to seize the shipment came before the new administration came to power.

Capital Ship Management Corps, the Greek owner of the tanker Achilleas which flies the Liberian flag, informed US officials that the ship might have unknowingly taken on Iranian crude oil and that they initially thought the oil was from Iraq.

After President Trump unilaterally left the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) he implemented the “maximum pressure” policy in order to force Iran to negotiate a better nuclear deal that would involve Iran’s missile program and interventions in neighboring countries. Heavy sanctions were imposed on Iran’s oil and gas and metal industries and travel bans and sanctions were imposed on many Islamic Republic officials who were involved in violations of human rights in Iran.

The sanctions heavily impacted Iran’s mismanaged economy and reduced Iran’s oil production by almost half.

President Biden had previously announced that he would be willing to renegotiate and return to the nuclear deal if Iran would return to full compliance. However, Biden’s pick for Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a return to the nuclear deal is “way off”.



Iran's UN Envoy Denies Contacts With Biden Team, Says Sanctions Should Be Lifted First

Iran’s envoy to the United Nations in New York has denied any contacts with the new US administration, in an interview with NBC on Monday, saying Tehran is waiting for President Joe Biden to take the first step to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi’s denial came a day after the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida quoted a source in the Iranian government saying that contacts have been in progress with the Biden administration and Iran has submitted seven conditions for the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In fact, the paper said that Takht-Ravanchi himself was the bearer of the diplomatic message to the US after spending two weeks in Tehran and returning to New York last week.

Takht-Ravanchi specifically answered a direct question that there has not been “any conversation” with the new administration “after Biden came into office” and added that Iran is not “planning to initiate anything.”

Echoing a policy set by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei earlier this month, the Iranian envoy said Iran is not in a hurry to start anything and it is up to the US to return to the JCPOA that President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 making demanding more concessions from Tehran.

Although Biden has indicated his intention to return to the agreement his national security team has said it will not be an easy and quick process. Biden is also concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile program and aggressive expansion of its influence in the region. Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that “We are a long way from there”.


Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce Director Warns Of New "Alarming" Signals

The director of the Coronavirus Taskforce for the Greater Tehran Alireza Zali reported a new “alarming” rise in the spread of coronavirus in Tehran and said: “We have received these signals from quickly released and hospitalized patients.”

According to ISNA, Zali said in a provincial coronavirus taskforce meeting: “In the fourth week of this months, compared to the third week, the drop in the rate of spread has slowed down, and the spread rate has even increased in some areas.”

According to Zali, in 30 to 40 days the Covid-19 death rate in Tehran will increase.

He also mentioned that the tracking and testing programs in Tehran have slowed down compared to previous weeks and said: “Currently the rate of social distancing in Tehran is 74 percent and it is dropping compared to previous weeks.”

“In the past week we have had 24 percent increase in city commutes which is very worrying,” Zali added.

The director of Tehran’s coronavirus taskforce emphasized “avoiding strategic mistakes” and the necessity of “implementing stricter protocols in the next two weeks in Tehran’s airports” and criticized “private schoolc for mandating student attendance”.

He continued: “We suggested the Azad University national entrance exam to be held from home or be postponed due to the current conditions in Tehran.”