United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

US Treasury: Iran’s Economy Still Suffering

            On June 18, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told the U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group that Iran’s economy “remains in a state of distress.” Lew also emphasized that the “temporary, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief provided by the Joint Plan of Action has been extremely limited.” The secretary met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while in Jerusalem. The following is an excerpt from his remarks.

Secretary Jacob J. Lew 
            “Let me say a few words about Iran, and the issues that both the United States and Israel face in dealing with Iran.  It is now clear that ongoing sanctions against Iran remain in place, and that the temporary, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief provided by the Joint Plan of Action has been extremely limited.  During the same six month period, Iran is losing a significant amount in oil sales alone from the sanctions that remain in place, more than the value of the temporary relief.  Iran sanctions are the toughest the world community has imposed on any country and its economy is suffering a serious blow as a result – an impact that is not being reversed.  As we approach the last month of the agreed upon period for negotiations, Iran’s economy remains in a state of distress that brought the government to the negotiating table in the first place.  This sustained pressure gives us the opportunity to pursue a negotiated agreement with Iran, in conjunction with our P5+1 partners, that will assure the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful.  Make no mistake: we will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.  We have always been clear that we will take the time to do this right, and we will not rush into a bad deal.  No deal is better than a bad deal.”

Pew: Iran Unpopular around the World

            Iran’s global image remains overwhelmingly negative one year after President Hassan Rouhani’s election, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. Views of Iran in several Middle Eastern countries have particularly worsened in recent years. And about three-in-four Americans still hold unfavorable views of the Islamic Republic. Pew surveyed 40 countries between March 17 and May 25, 2014. In 29 of those nations, a majority or plurality have an unfavorable opinion of Iran. The following are excerpts from the Pew report.

      Attitudes toward Iran are mostly negative worldwide. The only nations in which at least half express a favorable view are Bangladesh (63%), Pakistan (63%) and Indonesia (51%).
      Ratings for Iran are low in the Middle East, and have been dropping steadily in recent years. In 2006, roughly half or more in Egypt, Jordan and Turkey had a positive opinion of Iran; today, fewer than one-in-five in all three countries hold this view. Similarly, Iran’s favorability rating among Palestinians has dropped from 55% in 2007 to 33% now.
      Among the P5+1 nations (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) that are engaged in ongoing nuclear talks with Tehran, public attitudes are mostly critical of Iran. Majorities in Germany, France, the United States, the United Kingdom and China give Iran an unfavorable rating. Russians are more divided, although, on balance, still mostly negative (44% favorable, 35% unfavorable).
Rouhani Unpopular
      Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is often described as less hardline than other leaders of the Iranian regime, but a year into his tenure, Rouhani receives poor marks throughout the Middle Eastern countries surveyed.
      Majorities in six nations express an unfavorable opinion of Rouhani, including roughly eight-in-ten in Jordan and Egypt and about nine-in-ten in Israel. In Tunisia, a 44%-plurality gives him a negative rating.
      When Pew Research asked the same question about then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2012, the controversial Ahmadinejad received better ratings than Rouhani does today in Turkey, Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt.
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Report: Internal Tensions in Iran

            Iran’s internal politics and economic situation are fraught with tension, according to data compiled by international bodies and presented by Anthony Cordesman. For example, youth unemployment is already high at some 23 percent. But nearly a quarter of Iran’s population is 14-years-old or younger, which means that generation may have an even tougher time finding employment. Iran’s government has also received poor marks for effectiveness, corruption and accountability. The following are selected excerpts from the report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Demographic Pressures

•Cumulative Growth: 80.8 Million in July 2014. (Was 16.6 million in 1950, 39.7 million when Khomeini took power. Projected to be 93.5 million in 2030, 100.5 million in 2050 (US Census Bureau)
• Youth: 0-14 years: 23.7% (male 9,834,866/female 9,350,017); 15-24 years: 18.7% (male 7,757,256/female 7,341,309)
• Employment: Over 715,000 males and 677,000 females reach job age each year in labor force of 27 million with key lacks in job skills.
•Youth Unemployment: Total: 23%. Country comparison to the world: 48th. Male: 20.2% female: 33.9% (Dated)
• Hyperurbanization: urban population: 69.1% of total population (2011); rate of urbanization: 1.25% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
• Ethnic Divisions: Persian 61%, Azeri 16%, Kurd 10%, Lur 6%, Baloch 2%, Arab 2%, Turkmen and Turkic tribes 2%, other 1%
• Dependency Ratio: Total dependency ratio: 41 % youth dependency ratio: 33.6 % elderly dependency ratio: 7.5 %
Source: CIA World Factbook, “Iran,” , June 2, 2014


Uncertain Economic Pressures
• GDP of $987.7 billion in 2013 versus $165.7 for Kuwait, $198.7 for Qatar, $927.8 for Saudi Arabia, $269.8 for UAE.
• Inflation: 42.3% in 2013.
• Budget: $66.4 billion in spending, $47.8 billion in Revenues. -4.5% GDP
• Exports: $61.22 billion (2013 est.) vs. $67.04 billion (2012 est.)
• Imports: $64.42 billion (2013 est.) vs. $70.03 billion (2012 est.)
• Current Account Balance: -$8.7 billion in 2013
• Industrial Production Growth Rate: -5.2% (2013 est.) Country comparison to
the world: 191st
• World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index: 152nd in the world
• Total Unemployment Rate: 16%, 23rd in the world (Dated)
• Population Below Poverty Line: 18.7% (Dated)
• Household Income of Consumption by Percentage Share: Lowest 10% =2.6%. Highest 10% = 29.6% GINI = 44.6 (Dated)
• Dependency Ratio: Total dependency ratio: 41 % youth dependency ratio:
33.6 % elderly dependency ratio: 7.5 %
Source: CIA World Factbook, “Iran,” , June 2, 2014
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Tags: Reports

UK to Reopen Embassy in Tehran

            On June 17, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that Britain intends to reopen its embassy in Tehran. The embassy has been closed since demonstrators stormed it on Nov. 29, 2011 to protest new British sanctions on Iranian banks. The United Kingdom also closed the Iranian embassy in London and expelled all Iranian diplomats. The following is the full text of Hague’s statement.

      In February, I updated the House on progress in our bilateral relationship with Iran, following the appointment of non-resident Chargés d’Affaires in November 2013 (Official Report 24 February 2014 col 26). I said then that our decision to end formal protecting power arrangements was a sign of our increasing confidence in conducting bilateral business directly rather than through our Swedish and Omani intermediaries.
      Over the past four months, we have continued to expand our bilateral engagement. British and Iranian officials have paid regular visits to each other’s capitals. This has enabled us to resolve a range of practical matters concerning our embassies. And it has allowed us to discuss a broad range of issues, including areas where we and Iran have sharply differing views.
          Our two primary concerns when considering whether to reopen our embassy in Tehran have been assurance that our staff would be safe and secure, and confidence that they would be able to carry out their functions without hindrance. There has never been any doubt in my mind that we should have an Embassy in Tehran if the circumstances allowed. Iran is an important country in a volatile region, and maintaining embassies around the world, even under difficult conditions, is a central pillar of the UK’s global diplomatic approach. On Saturday I telephoned Foreign Minister Zarif to discuss the progress we have made to date and our common interest in continuing to move forward in the UK-Iran bilateral relationship.
          I have therefore now decided the circumstances are right to reopen our embassy in Tehran. There are a range of practical issues that we will need to resolve first. However, it is our intention to reopen the embassy in Tehran with a small initial presence as soon as these practical arrangements have been made. I expect the Iranian Government will similarly choose to take steps to reopen its embassy in London.
          Inevitably, the initial embassy presence will only be able to offer a limited range of services at first. For the time being, Iranians will still need to apply in Abu Dhabi or Istanbul for visas for travel to the UK. But encouraging people to people contact is an important priority and something that I hope we will be able to make progress on as the Embassy grows in size and capability over the following months.

US and Iranian Religious Leaders Declare Opposition to Weapons of Mass Destruction

            On June 14, a group of U.S. bishops and Iranian religious leader issued a joint declaration opposing actions that endanger the health, dignity and welfare of others — including proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The declaration was the result of a dialogue between the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Supreme Council of the Teachers of Qom, Iran’s center of religious scholarship. An American delegation visited Iran in March. The following is the full text of the declaration.

June 14, 2014 -16 Sha'bān 1435 AH
           The belief in One God unites Jews, Christians and Muslims, and calls us to work for the common good of the whole human family. It is our conviction that human societies need moral guidance and that it is incumbent on us as religious leaders to share the ethical teachings that flow from our respective traditions.
           Christianity and Islam cherish a common heritage that emphasizes, above all, love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community. We found this in our recent dialogue between Catholicism and Shia Islam. Both of our traditions reject as reprehensible all forms of transgression and injustice. We oppose any action that endangers the life, health, dignity, or welfare of others. Catholicism and Shia Islam hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.
           These foundational moral values unite us in raising fundamental moral questions regarding weapons of mass destruction. Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.
           We call on all societies and persons to respect religion and its role in sharing moral guidance in the public square. As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others. Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family. It is our mutual intention to engage in a sustained dialogue based on our shared values.
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