As Iranians prepare for the presidential elections in May, one can be sure that propaganda will be increased to persuade them to focus on the big western enemies, out there “to get them”, and not on the gloomy reality of their day to day lives. At the beginning of March, Michael Rubin wrote an excellent piece in aei on “unfulfilled expectations“. He notes the vast amounts of money that have poured into Iranian coffers during the Obama administration, as a result of the nuclear deal, proving once again that the prominent idea “improvement in cash flow will reform Iran” is a misconception. Only to see once again that none of these funds are used for an improvement in the life of the individual in Iran.
He notes the following financial benefits: 12 billion dollars in incentives, tens of billions of dollars gained off former frozen assets and lifted barriers to trade, more than one billion dollars ransom money for the release of American hostages. Where did all these assets go? The average person in Iran did not see any of these benefits.
Only recently we witnessed two new ballistic missile launches, as reported on foxnews, which even brought breakingdefense to call for a curbing of Iran’s cruise missiles. Missiles cost money. The supreme leader Khamenei, as reported on presstv, called for increased display of power, in order to discourage enemies from attacking Iran (as if the US and Europe are on the gates). Display of power costs money. Iran’s deep military, political and administrative involvement in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon cost vast sums of money. Iran’s support of its proxy groups like Hezbollah, cost money. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Hezbollah, has been quoted (see alarabiya) stating ”We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
All these expenses invested in order to project power, in relation to invented enemies on the gates, is at the expense of the people of Iran. There are other drains on Iran’s resources. One of them is corruption.
The FATF, in their February 2017 statement on Iran, decided to keep Iran on the FATF warning lists, despite all the benefits it has enjoyed. The FATF described its concerns: terrorist financing; threat Iran poses to the international financing system; lack of sufficient progress in implementing the Action Plan. No-one forces Iran to support terrorism and pose a threat to international banking systems. Not even the US.
An additional sign of the lack of change in Iran, is the low grading on the freedom scale. The Freedom House report again found Iran on the low, grading Iran 17 out of 100, stating: “elections fall short of democratic standards; ultimate power rests in the hands of the country’s supreme leader; most reform candidates are disqualified; human rights abuses continue unabated; The regime maintained restrictions on freedom of expression, both offline and online, and made further arrests of journalists, bloggers, labor union activists, and dual nationals visiting the country, with some facing heavy prison sentences”.
It is recommended that the Iranians remember these aspects as they prepare for the presidential elections in May. They can consider whether Rouhani has kept his pledges in the field of human rights and freedoms. They can reflect on where all the financial benefits (from the nuclear deal and release of hostages) have gone to. Let them decide.