Media attention is beginning to recede from the diplomatic ins and outs of the United States’ decision to reinstate sanctions on Iran. Iranian threats and political differences between Washington and Brussels have been well documented. Greater focus is now being placed on the impact American restrictions are having on everyday Iranians. As Reuters reported, when he reintroduced restrictive measures on Iran, US President Trump pledged the “most biting sanctions ever imposed.” If media reports are to be believed, they are perhaps biting even quicker than Trump had anticipated.
In The Independent this week, Bethan McKernan reported that food prices and rental costs have soared and supplies of vital imported medicines are beginning to run out. In the Washington Post, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Bijan Sabbagh said that Iranians are beginning to feel “imprisoned” as even newspapers begin to scale back and ordinary citizens are finding that air fares have become prohibitive, if they do wish to seek respite abroad. The feeling of isolation is only likely to increase – The BBC reported that both British Airways and Air France announced this week that they will stop flying to Iran next month, with both airlines deeming the route “not commercially viable.”
Given the current sorry state of affairs, you would have thought that Iran’s government would prioritise the welfare of its citizens, to shield them from the impact of sanctions as much as possible. The protection of the people is after all, surely the weightiest responsibility of any responsible government. Not so apparently if you are ruling from Tehran.
France 24 reported this week, that in the midst of the current crisis, Iran is determinedly continuing its missile development. The following quote within the report, from Brigadier General Amir Hatami is especially telling – “Our top priority has been development of our missile programme. We are in a good position in this field, but we need to develop it.” There it is in black and white – The guilty admission of shockingly irresponsible leadership. How can missiles possibly be Iran’s top priority, when the country’s economy is falling apart at the seams? Especially, as Iranians have increasingly displayed anger over their plight, protesting on the country’s streets. Their cries have clearly fallen on deaf ears. Their leaders have shown without question that their focus is military adventure and the quest for regional power, rather than citizen wellbeing.
This has been underscored by another development. Incredibly, as ordinary Iranians suffer decreasing incomes, water shortages and a currency which has halved in value since April, the regime has found money to construct a new fighter jet. As Paul Withers reported in the Daily Express, the locally developed aircraft was unveiled by President Rouhani this week on state television.
The latest military developments in Iran have clearly not gone unnoticed by the media. The renewed commitment towards missile development and a new fighter jet have been reported by global outlets. However, what journalists and editors have manifestly failed to so far do, is to join the dots. Where is the critical analysis of Iran’s continued military spending, while sanctions begin to bite? Why is nobody in the media seemingly asking the obvious – Why is it ‘business as usual’ for Iran’s leaders, while Iranians suffer the impact from sanctions of their government’s making? Why is the Tehran regime not being held to account?
The dissonance between the apparent riches available to Iran’s leaders and the suffering of the Iranian people is nothing new. Iranians have become progressively poorer in recent years, by precisely 15% over the last decade. By contrast, the country’s military spending has spiked by 128% during the past four years. But the financial dichotomy between the country’s leadership and its public is now more stark than ever – Sanctions are stretching the public towards breaking point. Yet, there is no sign that the very Iranian military machine responsible for renewed US restrictions, is slowing down. Surely it is a glaring disparity worth highlighting in the media. Given the focus on sanctions and their everyday impact, it seems almost inexplicable not to explore those culpable for the current state of affairs. Until the media holds the regime in Tehran to account, it is the Iranian people who will continue to suffer.