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The Trump administration says the latest sanctions against Iran will remain in place unless Tehran changes its behavior and agrees to renegotiate the nuclear deal. That's the deal the U.S. pulled out of. Iran has condemned the sanctions as illegal and dismissed them as ineffective. But ordinary Iranians are feeling their impact, as NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Much of the international coverage of the reimposition of sanctions on Iran has focused on what it might mean for world oil prices. But for Iranians trying to make ends meet in an already unsteady economy, fuel prices are just one of many problems they struggle with everyday. Said, a 38-year-old electrical engineer from Tehran, reached via Skype, says in his line of work, the impact of the sanctions has been immediate and painful.
SAID: (Through interpreter) In categories like electronic components directly tied to the value of the dollar, we can clearly see the impact. Prices have shot up as much as four times. For some other goods, essentials, the prices have also risen, but not as dramatically.
KENYON: The Iranian rial plunged to record lows even before President Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and reimpose sanctions. After the first round of sanctions returned in August, the Iranian currency hit a dismal 190,000 rials to the dollar, helping to spark protests across the country. Iran's leaders have promised to lessen the impact of the sanctions, with limited success. Said says, while most Iranians blame Trump for their suffering, they also blame their own government.
SAID: (Through interpreter) Most of the people I know don't approve of President Trump's behavior. But they're also very skeptical about the performance of the Iranian government. We're not political experts, but we can see these decisions are affecting our day-to-day lives very negatively. I expect more anger, more protests.
KENYON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the goal of the sanctions is to bring Iranian oil exports to zero. President Hassan Rouhani says that will never happen. Heard through an interpreter, he says breaking the sanctions will be a point of honor for Iran and its allies.
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HASSAN ROUHANI: (Through interpreter) We have been selling our oil and will continue to sell under any circumstances. We have the power to do that. They say that Iran bypasses the sanctions. Yes, we announce it proudly that we bypass your illegal and oppressive sanctions. Your sanctions are wrong and oppressive and are against international regulations.
KENYON: A 30-year-old Iranian industrial laborer from the northern city of Rasht agreed to an interview if his name isn't used. He says via Skype that hard-line conservatives in Iran are seizing on the sanctions to increase political attacks on Rouhani and his government.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Through interpreter) I think this pressure's only going to get worse unless somehow the government manages to win some concessions from the Americans. That has quieted the hard-liners in the past, anyway. And then comes another crisis, and the anger starts up again.
KENYON: Meanwhile, prices continue to rise, forcing layoffs and economic pain. The worker from Rasht says the pressure is forcing people to work even harder.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Through interpreter) One impact I see is that people around me are looking for a second job - and so am I - just in order to maintain our income. We need extra jobs now just to have the same amount of money.
KENYON: Iranians following the headlines see no sign things will get better soon. Iran's foreign minister says the American sanctions, by increasing food costs to ordinary Iranians, violate international law. National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, told Fox Business News that the administration hasn't finished punishing Iran. More sanctions are in the works. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.
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