After the small matter of COVID-19, the threat of domestic insurrection, and the ongoing US-China trade war, the latest sanctions on Iran that Trump chose to impose just ten days before vacating the White House are sure to be high on the incoming US President’s agenda. Today, Biden’s counterpart Hassan Rouhani did his best to keep them there by using a televised broadcast to tell the world that ‘the ball is in Washington’s court.’
Overshadowed by dramatic domestic events, the latest – and final – Trump sanctions were imposed in retaliation for Iranian strikes on bases housing US military personnel in Iraq as Iranians commemorated the first anniversary of the assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani and were designed to have a devastating effect on Iran’s entire construction, mining, textiles and manufacturing sectors.
The dismay felt in Tehran at Trump’s final swipe is a reflection of just how much Iran’s economy has become a slave to swings in US foreign policy. In 2015, when President Obama originally put his name to the deal on Iran’s nuclear programme along with other members of the P5+1 group of world powers, Iran’s economy began to grow exponentially. After shrinking by 1.3% in 2015, it grew by 13.4% the following year – only to slump by nearly 5% in 2018 (the year in which Trump announced he was abandoning the deal) and over 7% in the following year. The Iranian rial collapsed by more than two-thirds after that announcement, while Iran’s oil exports plummeted from 2.7 million to 1.6 million barrels a day in just six months, sending oil prices surging.
No wonder, that Rouhani was today publicly celebrating the end of what he termed Trump’s “malevolent rule”. “A tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign,” he said. “Someone for whom all of his four years bore no fruit other than injustice and corruption and causing problems for his own people and the world.” He expected the White House to try to “remove all the stains of the past four years, that is if they can be removed,” he added, undoubtedly with the most recent Trump sanctions in mind. “If they show their honesty in action toward the laws and the resolution that they voted for and the commitments they signed on for, then naturally we will also implement all our commitments.”