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Iran: An analysis of President Rouhani's first year in office
Hassan Rouhani was appointed president of Iran on June 15, 2013. Since taking office, the country's economic, political and social woes have worsened. While official data downplays the domestic crises, the regime’s press has provided a glimpse into the current situation in Iran. The facts show little improvement in the economy, social and political arenas.

The Economy

The World Economic Forum evaluated 100 economic indicators for 148 countries across the globe for its 2013-2013 report. According to their report, Iran ranked last in extent of foreign ownership and bank loan facilitation, and second to last on trade price lists and customs expenses.

The Etemad Daily based in Iran has reported regime officials stating Iran’s current recession “is unprecedented in the past 70 years.” Reports published by the regime place official inflation at 40% and unemployment at 13% but international sources give much higher figures.

In May 2014, the former Iranian MP, Mostafa Kavakabian stated 11 million Iranians were unemployed. The size of the Iranian workforce is 27 million and Kavakabian’s figure translates into an unemployment rate of 40%.

An unemployment crisis is also occurring among university graduates. In March 2014, the Mardom Salari Daily reported that out of 10.3 million graduates, only 3.9 million were employed. The figure for the unemployed was 1 million, but those who economically inactive amounted to 5.3 million. “Therefore, one can say to this day 50% of all those graduating from college have practically not entered the country’s economic cycle,” concluded their report.

The situation does not improve for those who are employed. Poverty is rampant. Mousavi Lari, the former Iranian Prime Minister, said, “It is said that 63% of the people have announced their income at 6 millian rials a month and 16% have said it is 8 million rials a month and a very low percentage is actually above 10 million rials a month.”

To put this in perspective, one U.S. dollar is worth 25,621.32 Iranian rials. Those Iranians who report 6 million rials as their monthly earnings live on less than $235. The latest data from the ministry of Trade, Work and Social Welfare shows the absolute poverty line in urban areas has reached 9.2 million rials and in the villages it has reached around 7 million rials. Currently, 79% of Iranians are living below the absolute poverty line.

Inflation is driving another 7.5% of the population below the poverty line each year. Costs for the basic necessities and increasing educational costs have increased the number of working class and homeless children to 3.5 million this year.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Road & Construction said, “From March to October 2013, the average price of buying and selling one square meter of a residential site in Tehran has increased by 54.3% in comparison to the same period last year, reaching 377 million rials.” Iran has eliminated targeted subsidies and there has been a nearly 50% increase on both rationed and open market products.

The Director General of the Oil Refinery and Distribution National Company was quoted by Resalat Daily in March 2014, noting, “This year an average of around 10 million liters of gasoline was imported into the country and in comparison to last year the amount of imported gasoline has tripled.” While the imports have increased, this has not been affective in bringing down prices.

Social and Political

The social aspects of Rouhani’s tenure are also compelling international concerns. In March 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed concerns over the soaring rate of executions in Iran, including as many as 675 last year. He stated in his report to the UN Human Rights Council, “The new government has not changed its approach regarding the application of the death penalty and seems to have followed the practice of previous administrations, which relied heavily on the death penalty to combat crime.”

Ban Ki Moon also stated, “The new Iranian administration has not made any significant improvement in the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and opinion, despite pledges made by the president during his campaign and after his swearing in.”

In a January 2014 press release, Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Reporter on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, said, “The persistent execution of individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association and affiliation to minority groups contravenes universally accepted human rights, principles and norms.”

Shaheed reported that between 2012 and 2013, the rate of executions rose by 165% and there are serious questions about the standards applied to death penalty trials, especially in light of Iran’s history of executing political prisoners. Sources inside the country show that from March 2013 to March 2014, 45 public executions were registered, along with 828 executions, political murders and suspicious deaths.

In its 2013 report on worldwide human rights, the U.S. State Department acknowledged the situation in Iran remains poor. The Iranian government’s official news outlet, Tabnak, admitted that for each 100,000 people in the country, 800 will enter prison. Iran is fourth in the world in number of prisoners per capita.

Journalists and bloggers are a special target, with Iran imprisoning more journalists than almost any other country. The government frequently shutters newspapers, including 5 newspapers under Rouhani’s tenure.

Foreign Policy

Iran has indicated its support for Palestinian terrorist groups, strengthened its presence in Africa and attempted to smuggle weapons to separatists in Yemen and Bahrain. In addition, Iran continues to challenge requests to prove its nuclear ambitions are peaceful, according the U.S. State Department.

Iran and Rouhani have also supported the Assad regime in Syria. Fars News Agency reported that IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani has stated, “130,000 trained Bassij members are waiting to be dispatched to Syria. Today we are fighting for interest such as the Islamic revolution in Syria and our defense is similar to that of the Sacred Defense [the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War]”.

“Iran’s influence from the Iran-Iraq-Syria has reached the Mediterranean. Our defensive boarder is in southern Lebanon with Israel and our strategic depth has reached the Mediterranean above Israel,” said Rahim Safavi, current Khamenei military advisor and former IRGC chief.

Nuclear Ambition

Iran continues with its refusal to comply with the demands of a nuclear agreement and international sanctions. Reuters News Agency reported that a classified report by UN experts indicated methods Iran uses to curb sanctions, including hiding titanium casings within metal tubes and using the petrochemical industry as a cover for acquiring items for the heavy water nuclear reactor.

The Chair of Iran’s Nuclear Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi said, “Uranium enrichment is our right. The percentage and method of enrichment is also our right. The nuclear fuel cycle is our right and we will not back down from it. Therefore, they must be certain that enrichment will continue. Nuclear sites will continue and our activities inside the Arak site will also continue.”

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araqchi stressed, “Halting Iran’s nuclear program has neither begun nor will being in the future.”

Rouhani was billed as moderate in the Iranian election and to the world at large. A year later, the world watches as Rouhani continues on the path laid out by his predecessors and only paying lip service to moderation.

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