By Parisa Hafezi
ANKARA (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the government on Monday of economic mismanagement and said it needed to improve its performance to help the country better weather newly reimposed U.S. sanctions.
Washington reimposed strict sanctions against Iran last Tuesday and President Donald Trump has threatened to penalise firms from other countries that continue to operate in the Islamic Republic. Iran has denounced the sanctions as “U.S. unilateralism”.
“More than the sanctions, economic mismanagement (by the government) is putting pressure on ordinary Iranians … I do not call it betrayal but a huge mistake in management,” Iranian state TV quoted Khamenei as saying, in his first reaction to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
“With better management and planning we can resist the sanctions and overcome them,” Khamenei said.
Iran’s rial currency has lost about half of its value since April in anticipation of the renewed U.S. sanctions, driven mainly by heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings.
Iranian officials have blamed “enemies” for the fall of the currency and a rapid rise in the price of gold coins, and more than 60 people, including several officials, have been arrested on charges that carry the death penalty.
“The fall of the rial and the increase in gold coin prices are major economic problems… The corrupt people (officials) should be punished firmly,” Khamenei said told a gathering attended by thousands of Iranians, state TV reported.
Khamenei on Saturday called for “swift and just” legal action by new courts set up to tackle corruption after the head of the judiciary said Iran was facing an “economic war”, Iranian media reported.
Fearing further economic hardship, thousands of Iranians in recent weeks have protested against the slump in the rial, sharp rises in the prices of some food items and state corruption.
The protests in cities and towns across Iran have often begun with slogans against the high cost of living, high prices and a lack of jobs, but have then quickly turned into anti-government rallies.
Trump reimposed the sanctions after pulling the United States out of an international accord that aims to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. He said the deal was not working and also has said Iran must stop meddling in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
The sanctions prevent Iran from trading in gold and precious metals. They also ban purchases of U.S. dollars by Iran and sanction its automotive sector.
Unless Iran’s clerical rulers comply with the U.S. demands, more sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and shipping industries are set for November.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Gareth Jones)