Iran: Sanctions relief money is spent on terrorism

This article originally posted om the Hill.com

By Shahriar Kia

Developments following the landmark nuclear deal struck between Tehran and the world powers prove that hopes for the recovery of Iran’s economy in a post-JCPOA era is false placed.

The economic crisis riddling Iran is a byproduct of the corruption ingrained in the structure of the fundamentalist regime ruling the country and the very foundations it has been established on. And this isn’t something that is going to change as a result of an international treaty or an alteration of the country’s political lineup.

In fact, for average Iranians, the changes ensuring the signing of the nuclear deal leaves a lot to desire. A testament to the fact is the increase in the country’s unemployment rate in 2016.

In an Oct. 8 op-ed published in a state-owned news website, Iranian economy expert Majid Salimi Boroujeni stipulates that in spite of the JCPOA, the expansion of financial corruption has revealed yet another facet of the country’s faltering economy, which is the insecurity felt by economic players and entrepreneurs in the private sector.

Foreign investors as well are being deterred from tapping into the Iranian market due to corruption, lack of transparency and poor transportation structure engulfing the country.

Another op-ed published in the state-run Jahan-e-San’at (World of Industry) newspaper states that visits from foreign delegations won’t do much to attract foreign investments as long as financial corruption hasn’t been rooted out from the country.

Also, the fact that Iran’s economy is in the grasp of institutions like the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), renowned—and sanctioned—for its nefarious deeds, makes it a risky business to do commerce with Iranian entities.

So far, the only party that has largely benefitted from the economic windfall resulting from the lifting of sanctions and the release of frozen assets, are the ruling elite and the IRGC, and they’re ticking off items on their bucket list of domestic, regional and global goals, which doesn’t include rebuilding the country’s bankrupt economy.

However, what does happen to top Iran’s list of priorities includes developing ballistic missiles and shoring up its military and security apparatus, funding its proxy wars in the region, and supplying its militia affiliates in the Middle East with arms and fresh recruits.

“The whole world should know that the IRGC will be in the U.S. and Europe very soon,” says the deputy coordinator of IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya Garrison to a state-controlled news publication. Khatam al-Anbiya controls hundreds of front companies that are running the country’s economy, which tells much about how the regime is spending the cash that’s being funneled its way after the nuclear agreement has come into effect.

While the mullahs ruling Iran are trying to prevent the collapse of their regime by pouring cash into domestic repression and the export of terrorism and extremism, the current situation is further pushing them toward a deadlock.

This is a reality that the regime’s own officials are confessing to, stating that the country’s economic infrastructure is on the verge of total collapse due to the endemic corruption riddling the country’s financial infrastructure.

In an interview with the state-owned Channel 5 television network, Iranian MP Ahmad Tavakoli said, “If we don’t fight with corruption in a systematic way, the Islamic Republic will certainly fall. We’ve passed the ‘threat’ phase—we’re in the ‘danger’ phase.” Tavakoli adds, “Neither a military nor a velvet coup can overthrow [the regime], but if we don’t fight corruption, the Islamic Republic will be overthrown.”

Financial corruption has pushed the Iranian society to a point of no return. Added to the abysmal human rights situation in Iran and state-driven repression of freedoms, the current economic conditions have exacerbated an already chronic state of social dissatisfaction across the country.

This is no longer an economic or financial issue, and is quickly turning into a widespread political problem. Iran is a failed state, and having long lost hope for any kind of reform emerging from within the ruling mullahs, the people are anticipating the perfect opportunity for regime change.

This underlines the need for the West—and especially the U.S.—to review its policy of appeasement toward the Iranian regime. Hoping for economic growth and investment by Iran while it is being ruled by the mullahs is an illusion.

Kia is a political analyst writing on Iran and a member of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK). He graduated from North Texas University.

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