Things aren't going so well for Iran on the economic front, lately. On Monday, the country's already suffering currency, the rial, plummeted in value and landed at a historic low. When the dust had settled, it took a whopping 34,800 rials to buy just one U.S. dollar. Last Monday, it only took 24,600 rials.
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Nobody seems too surprised since a large part of the Western world tightened it economic sanctions on Iran this year as the country continues to pursue its nuclear program. There's now a full-fledged embargo on Iranian oil in the European Union. (Iran had to disguise its tankers to elude pirates after it ran out of space on land to store the unwanted inventory.) Meanwhile, the U.S. has barred Iranian banks from doing business with American banks. Uncle Sam has even banned Iranian-origin imports like rugs and pistachios.
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All things considered, economists and the State Department alike say that the sanctions are finally taking their toll. "From our perspective, this speaks to the unrelenting and increasingly successful international pressure that we are all bringing to bear on the Iranian economy. It's under incredible strain," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told Reuters. "[Sanctions are] cutting deeper and deeper into the Iranian economy and this is an important factor in trying to change the calculus of the Iranian leadership."
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It's not like Iran isn't trying. On September 23, the Central Bank of Iran made a change in policy that they hoped would reduce the volatility of exchange rates, but to their finance minister's dismay, it had the opposite effect. Economists say that rather than the move boosting the people's confidence, it sent the signal that the government was running low on dollars leading to "a massive dumping of rials," to borrow one analyst's phrasing. And according to Steve H. Hanke, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University, the worst isn't over. "When a currency collapses, you can be certain that other economic metrics are moving in a negative direction too," he wrote earlier this month in reference to Iran's economic woes.
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No wonder Ahmadinejad's cameraman defected during his trip to the United Nations -- ostensibly after going on a massive shopping spree at Costco.