Where Is Money From Iran’s Oil Exports Being Spent? – OpEd

The government of President Ebrahim Raisi blames the previous government of Hasan Rouhani for all its shortfalls and social, economic, and international incompetencies. Before that Rouhani blamed Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013 for the same things. Despite their blaming game, all these government officials and authorities have been in tight partnership in suppressing the Iranian people, robbing the people of their wealth becoming millionaires overnight, and pushing more than 80% of the people under the poverty line. Eight months after Raisi took office, and while parliament was in complete unison with the government, Iran’s parliament’s speaker, Qalibaf, claimed that “the rise in inflation was due to the actions of previous governments“.

“I hope that this government’s round-the-clock efforts to curb inflation will pay off as soon as possible and that people’s livelihood concerns will be allayed,” he added.

In an effort to sugar-coat the failing record of Ebrahim Raisi’s government, several hardline media outlets have portrayed a rosy picture of the country’s economic status and its future economic glow even without a new nuclear deal and financial tightrope regarding Iran’s unwillingness to ratify the FATF (Financial Action Taskforce). However, the hourly and daily rising prices of essential commodities alongside the gradual and steady hike of the US dollar value in Iran in recent months tell a completely different story.

In a recent issue of Kayhan Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the regime’s Supreme Leader, an article states: “While the previous government stalled the country for eight years behind the JCPOA and the FATF, now the 13th government’s (Ebrahim Raisi) oil minister has announced that in the last seven months, he has signed $16.5 billion in oil and gas contracts with domestic and foreign companies. These contracts have been concluded without signing the JCPOA or ratifying the FATF.”

Another state-run daily, Iran, said in its headline that the regime had profited “$101 billion in trade without the FATF”.

Apart from the political views on this issue, it seems that $16.5 billion or the $101 billion that is claimed by the minister and the media are significant income numbers that, if true, could cure a large part of Ebrahim Raisi’s government’s economic worries and shortfalls.

Out of control price hikes in Iran

News of hourly and daily price hikes of the most basic commodities in Iran occupy Iran’s state media and social media. Shortage of everyday products, increasing prices, and the formation of long queues to acquire the simplest necessities for life, such as tomatoes, bread, and rice, even at such high prices, have become common scenes across Iran. The question that arises in view of the recent optimistic headlines is, in which of the sectors of the economy have the said dollars been invested when prices are so volatile?

At the beginning of Raisi’s government, the price of tomatoes was about 7,000 tomans per kilo; the same tomato is sold at about 40,000 tomans now. In some cities, it is reported that tomatoes are sold individually, at about 4,000 tomans each. According to the published videos, the price of powdered milk, which was previously 38,700 tomans, has now increased by 44% to 69,000 tomans. The price of Iranian cars has also skyrocketed. In the last eight months, the price of Pride (an Iranian-made sedan) has become 80 million tomans more expensive than before. The same is true of rice and meat. Red meat has reached 200,000 tomans, and each kilo of rice has reached 100,000 tomans. Other necessary items for everyday life have also become more expensive and out of reach for ordinary people.

If Iran’s economy is doing so well, according to the officials, why is Iran so adamant about reviving the 2015 JCPOA and has spent so much money to do so?

The exact statistics on the cost of each of the recent JCPOA meetings in Vienna are not available or published. However, according to some estimates, more than 20 billion tomans have been spent by the negotiating team during the recent JCPOA talks. Undoubtedly, these astronomical figures are paid from the country’s foreign exchange resources and come from the pockets of the poor.

It is reported that Iran’s oil exports have gone back to their level of 2015, more than two million barrels a day and that a part of Iran’s frozen assets have been released and are in the hands of the Iranian government. This, in theory, should bring prices down for ordinary citizens in Iran.

There is only one simple conclusion to make. The money the regime in Tehran has received and is receiving is pocketed by the regime’s officials and is spent to support Iran’s terrorist proxies. Saudi Arabian daily Okaz recently said that the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah has asked Iran for $25 million in addition to the annual funds it receives from Tehran. Lebanese media say the latest visit by Iran’s foreign minister to Beirut was also related to this request by Hezbollah. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian traveled to Lebanon in late March to bolster relations with senior Lebanese authorities.

Lesson to Learn

Trusting this regime, time after time has proved to be an utter mistake. One must go back just a few years ago when $150 billion, more than 80% of which was cash, was awarded to Iran in the hope of taming the regime. Since then, the regime in Tehran has become more repressive against its citizens and bolder and more dangerous outside Iran. History does not forget, and the people of Iran will not forgive those who tried to appease the regime that has brought them nothing but misery.

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