Iran Leaders Openly Bemoan Economic Pain

Helia Ighani

Throughout July, a broad range of top political leaders, lawmakers and even military generals have publicly conceded that Iran faces growing economic hardships—with increasingly dangerous consequences. They have blamed both tightening international sanctions and years of government mismanagement. In an unusual move, Iran’s Supreme Leader intervened on July 24 to try to end the wave of criticism.

In a major speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for an end to public disputes over the financial crisis. He also addressed new U.S. and European sanctions that went into effect in June and July. The following are recent comments from two recent Khamenei speeches as well as remarks from 10 other senior officials that reflect the mounting criticism.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, July 24
“The reality is that there are problems. However, you must not blame them on this or that [Iranian political] party...Instead you must solve those problems with unity. You should avoid useless disputes and airing these disputes to help preserve the nation's unity...And officials should know these actions will not bring them any honor or prestige among the people.”
"The country will pass over the current economic pressures against the Islamic system, for their continuation is not to the benefit of Western nations…They explicitly say they should intensify pressure and sanctions to force the Iranian authorities to reconsider their calculations…When we look at the reality, we have to conclude that not only will we not revise our calculations, but we will continue on our path with greater confidence.”
“Although there are challenges in the path of the Iranian nation, there is no dead-end.”
“Iran retreating (from its policies) regardless of justifications or excuses, or showing flexibility, will only embolden the enemy.”
Khamenei, June 11
"These days Westerners are being sensational about sanctions but they don't understand that they themselves vaccinated Iran through their sanctions imposed over the last 30 years."
Brig. Yadollah Javani, head of the IRGC political bureau, July 23
"The economic sanctions of the West against the Islamic Republic of Iran have reached their peak and have entered a new phase which one can call ‘economic warfare'...The final goal of this war is not to stop Iran's nuclear activities, but to stop the fast spinning wheel of Islamic Iran in all fields.
"By stopping the wheel of progress of the Iranian nation, the enemies want to avoid Islamic Republic becoming a role model for other nations, in particular Muslim nations in the region. Therefore, the West has intensified the economic warfare so that in the end the Iranian people will rise against the regime of the Islamic Republic.
"Although the sanctions have produced the opposite result and in some instances accelerated self-sufficiency, the question now is how to prevail in this economic warfare, now that the enemies have intensified the sanctions and the pressure on the people's economy has also intensified.
"We must consider the imposed economic warfare as a reality...Everyone must act according to his or her duties in this war conditions...Everyone must help the government of the Islamic Republic to break and bypass the sanctions...One must deal with the profiteers like the fifth columnists of the enemy...All the capabilities of the state must be in the hands of those who have a spirit of economic Jihad...One must ask for divine assistance in this economic warfare.”
Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran’s parliament, July 17
“The country’s economic problems are only 20 percent due to the sanctions. Unfortunately, the main origin of the inflation comes from the maladroit application of the plan to suppress subsidies…If a sound plan existed, the situation of our economy would be different, considering the resources in our country.”
Mehdi Ghazanfari, Minister of Industries and Business, July 17
“The enemy has put his fingers on the main arteries of the country’s economy and is now implementing comprehensive sanctions.”
“There is no precedence in the world for a central bank to be sanctioned. But they have done this and they may even expand the sanctions further to include logistics issues. Today we are in a serious and dangerous confrontation. We must realize that confronting the enemy requires serious thought and intelligence.”
“The Iranian economy is dynamic, which will not be influenced by sanctions…The roots of the price hikes contain peculiar complexities, but we cannot announce all of their aspects through the media."
Shamseddin Hosseini, Minister of the Economic Affairs and Finance, July 25
“The conclusion of today's meeting between the economic officials of the government and lawmakers is to minimize the effects of sanctions…We agreed to cut budget spending...and focus on domestic production.”
Mahmoud Bahmani, Governor of Iran’s Central Bank, July 1
“We are implementing programs to counter sanctions and we will confront these malicious policies.”
Rostam Qasemi, Minister of Petroleum, July 1
“All possible options have been planned in government to counter sanctions.”
“While we collectively exported 18 percent of our oil to them before, it is not difficult to substitute customers for this much oil in the world.”
Qasemi, July 14
“These sanctions are more economic in nature to transfer the pressure to the people and the enemy has certainly reached the conclusion that physical confrontation with the Islamic Republic will have no result.”
Ali Saeedi, Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative to the IRGC, undated in mid-July
“The government’s efforts to confront the price hikes have been insufficient.”
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, Assembly of Experts and adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, July 1
“(The price hikes are) a matter of pain…If you say ouch, the arrogant ones will say they have achieved their goal. So be patient, and make them regret it."
Mohammad Reza Rahimi, First Vice President of Iran, July 1
“Today, we are facing the heaviest of sanctions, and we ask people to help officials in this battle."
Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, July 11
“Our country is not in a position to allow the media to publish (any) news or analysis which is not compatible with the regime's and national interests…The situation regarding sanctions and other pressures, especially in economy...requires more cooperation by the media so the country is not hurt.”
Helia Ighani is a research assistant at the United States Institute of Peace.