Iran’s already faltering economy has been dealt a severe blow with the return of sanctions that had previously been lifted. A full spectrum of sanctions took effect on November 5th, imposed by the United States. The decision has prompted Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to describe the move as a "war situation" facing Tehran.
The sanctions were lifted in 2015 after Iran signed a nuclear agreement, championed by the Obama administration.
Following the return of sanctions, Iran news outlets ran footage of soldiers cheering the downing of a drone. But no military action was forthcoming in the wake of the sanctions. The US made the decision in a bid, according to Washington, to force Iran to stop its "malign activities" across the Middle East.
Even though Iran has warned that it could return to its programme of enriching uranium, it has so far still honoured the 2015 agreement, according to the United Nations.
Ordinary residents are starting to feel the bite of the prolonged sanctions in Iran. The effects can be seen in empty shelves and long lines at currency conversion shops. One particular area in which the effects can be seen is with the procurement and affordability of medicine.
"When the dollar rate went up, prices for medicine went up by 80%," said one man, who only identified himself as Amidi. He suffers from a mental illness and has a son with cancer. "I can't buy my own medicine anymore. I haven't taken my medicine for two months because I can't afford it."
The sanctions will impose penalties on more than 700 Iranian and Iranian-linked individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels. Some 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 people and ships, Iran's state-run airline Iran Air and more than 65 of its planes will feel the bite from the new sanctions.
A particular target of the sanctions is Iran’s vital oil industry, which provides the country with vital hard currency. The US Treasury Department has made sure the new sanctions will place a severe burden on Iran’s oil industry, by curtailing the sale of oil to other countries.
"Our objective is to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East and, indeed, around the world," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "The Iranian regime has a choice: it can either do a 180 degree turn from its outlawed course of action and act like a normal country or it can see its economy crumble."
US President Donald Trump’s administration insists it is not seeking a regime change, only that it seeks a radical change to its policies. This includes Iran’s support for regional militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles.
Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its national currency, the rial, is currently trading at 150,000 to $1. Just one year ago it was about 40,500 to $1. The economic chaos resulted in mass anti-government protests last year. Some 5,000 people were arrested and at least 25 were killed in the violence.
Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran's UN ambassador, accused the US of "brazenly and boldly" violating a UN Security Council resolution that unanimously endorsed the nuclear deal by re-imposing sanctions. He called for "a collective response by the international community."
European nations that are still part of the nuclear deal have sought to offer protection for those firms still trading with Iran. However, many international firms have already backed out of the country, fearful of facing American sanctions.
According to AP, that fear has also kept shoppers out of the stores in Tehran.
"Check the shops here one by one. There are no customers," said Hossein Ahmadi, who sells purses. "People have kept their money for rainy days out of fear of sanctions."