Livelihood, Transparency, Employment in Budget Bill
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented the budget bill for 2018-2019 to the Parliament, claiming that “transparency, livelihood, and employment” are three main features of the next year’s budget. But the editorial of Iran newspaper focuses on three serious challenges facing Iran’s economy in this regard.
Unemployment has impacted educated youths; considerable number of Iranians are facing livelihood challenges; and Iran’s economy doesn’t score high in the transparency index. Corruption has so penetrated the economic layers that it has destroyed people’s trust; signs of popular dissatisfaction with widespread corruption can be seen everywhere.
The editorial continues: under such conditions, if the budget can bring these three features together, it will be wonderful. But the main issue is if the government can realize these features. The truth is the government is struggling with many problems and is facing serious challenges in providing people’s livelihood. So how can the government be expected to cover those who have been living in extreme poverty?
In the recent year, the incidents that took place in foreign currency rate resulted in increasing poverty in the Iranian society. As such it is very important that government shouldn’t allow the leap in prices to continue, because it targets people’s livelihood and harms the employment. Iran is in an economic war. As a result, the government has to act accordingly and shouldn’t rely on foreign currency. Most of the foreign currency cannot be accessed and will be frozen in countries buying oil.
The editorial concludes: the government can gain considerable amounts by imposing taxes investment income, total income, empty houses, and large bank deposits. By focusing on preventing tax evasion, the government can overcome its own limitations.
Iran – December 26
Iranian Officials’ Hopelessness in Fighting Addiction
The editorial of Mostaghel newspaper focuses on disturbing statistics regarding spread of addiction in Iran.
According to the latest news, the average age of addiction in Iran has reached under 14. Under the current disorderly condition of the country, addiction is taking more and more victims. It seems that the accelerating advance of this phenomenon has outpaced fighting it, which is a warning to each and every individual in the society.
The editorial continues: fallout of addiction, as a social problem, targets families — with women, children and youths as its main victims. If this process continues, we will be witnessing many abnormalities in the society. Addiction is the cause of many separations, violence against women and children and numerous widespread diseases.
Fighting this phenomenon doesn’t require any special and complicated facilities. Iran enjoys enough resources for creating preventive mechanisms in this regard, and with relying on them, the ground for a healthy society can be created. But these is no integrated plans or activities in this regard, and officials must be held accountable for it.
The editorial goes on to say: everybody knows that Iran is under particular conditions and is facing foreign and domestic problems. But this doesn’t justify the increasing growth of addiction. Addiction is advancing quickly, while in big cities like Tehran, one can see addicts using drugs in the public; the police doesn’t do anything about it. Accessing narcotic drugs has become very easy.
The editorial concludes: stabilization of current condition and its advance are nothing but sign of officials’ hopelessness in this regard. Unless this irresponsible process stops, we must expect catastrophes in a larger scale than today.
Mostaghel – December 25
Story of Withdrawal
The editorial of Ebtekaar daily focuses on US President Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, as well as its possible reasons and outcomes.
Trump’s sudden decision to take US forces out of Syria still has its impacts and consequences. Following the resignation of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Brett McGurk, US envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS, too, resigned, saying the ‘recent decision came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us.’ He added ‘it left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered.’
The editorial continues: European allies of the United States talk of being shocked due to adopting this policy, even talking openly of being betrayed by Trump. That is because in addition to security fallouts of this decision for Europe, the path is now paved for more extensive influence of Iran and Russia in Syrian current developments.
These changes, the editorial adds, which has resulted in European countries’ concern and implicit happiness of Russia and Turkey, still raise a big question. What was the White House’s real motivation for enforcing such a policy in Syria? With US forces withdrawing, there has been a kind of agreement over Arab Middle East between the United States and Europe to sustain the old order with minor changes.
The editorial goes on to say: some experts, on the other hand, hold that Trump’s measure was to fulfill his campaign slogan. Also, this measure can result in outsourcing the US role to its allies in the region so that they pay and enforce US policies.
The editorial concludes: whatever the issue may be, it rings the alarm bell for the Middle East countries that have resorted to international powers for help, instead of reaching agreements and cooperating with each other.
Ebtekaar – December 24
Iran’s Economy Should not Wait for European SWIFT
Do the Europeans seriously intend to change their approach with regard to SWIFT for Iran’s sake? The editorial of Asr-e Iranian doesn’t believe so, explaining that currently creating European SWIFT is just a dream for European countries, and it isn’t reasonable for Iranian government to base the country’s economic decisions and plans on this dream of Europe.
Now that the United States has withdrawn from the nuclear deal, Iranian government is trying to surmount the ensuing problems by launching European SWIFT, Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). As such the question is to what extent European SWIFT can be useful and why Europe is doing this.
The editorial continues: there are two issues involved. One is the existence of such a mechanism. And the other is if European SWIFT can become operational in the real world. As for the first issue, if the world can agree on freeing itself from structures created by a country like America, such a mechanism will be useful for all the countries in the world — from European countries to China and Russia. If some day countries of the world make up their minds, launching a SWIFT mechanism against America is not impossible.
The editorial continues: America imposes its policies on the world unilaterally through such leverages, making the whole world obey US policies. The entire world including the Europeans have reached the conclusion that the US unilateralism threatens their economic security. But, for any reasons, the Europeans haven’t intended to stop US bullying policies, and European foreign policy means following America.
The editorial concludes: as for European SWIFT, it seems unlikely that European countries would like to seriously change their approach for the sake of Iran, or at the very least, it can be said launching European SWIFT is just a dream for them.
Asre Iranian – December 23
Rouhani Submits Budget Bill to Parliament while Dollar Price Soars
President Hassan Rouhani submitted the next year’s budget bill to Iran’s parliament for review on Tuesday, at a time when economic conditions are critical under the US sanctions. There is no guarantee for the government’s revenues and the budget bill doesn’t seem to solve any particular problem. The budget has had roughly 40% increase compared to last year, reaching $47 billion. The government has predicted to export 1.5 million barrels of oil per day at $54 each next year, which means Iran’s oil export will be cut in half next year compared to this year.
While the budget has increased, the government is expected to face a considerable decrease in its revenue next year due to the US sanctions. Moreover, the International Monetary Fund has predicted Iran’s inflation rate at 39.2 percent next year, which makes a major part of the budget increase useless. The government has promised to raise employees’ salaries for 20%, which is obviously far less than the predicted inflation rate. As a result, salaried employees must brace themselves for facing tougher economic conditions.
The other feature of the budget bill is increase in the budget of IRGC and Basij. IRGC’s budget shows roughly 25% increase, while the Army’s budget has had 8% decrease. When there was a delay in submitting 2019-2020 budget bill to the Parliament, the government and parliament officials announced it was for implementing changes in the bill that supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s had in mind. The amendments are said to be related to withdrawing money from National Development Fund of Iran and spending more on military purposes.
As such Iranian establishment is intent on spending more on its military plans and program, as well as on its contentious missile program.
The immediate aftermath of Rouhani’s speech in the Parliament was increase in price of dollar in Iranian currency market. While presenting next year’s budget to parliament, Rouhani admitted that the foreign exchange reserves had dropped to zero at some point in the beginning of the year. This resulted in instant soaring of price of dollar in the currency market. By the end of day, the US dollar rate reached to more than 12 thousand tomans, showing more than 1500-toman increase compared to the day before.
US Withdraws Troops from Syria; a Gift to Iran and Russia?
US President Trump abruptly announced his decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, saying that the mission is completed and ISIS is defeated. There are roughly 2,000 US troops in Syria. Perplexing even his allies both in and out of the United States, Trump faced harsh criticism for his decision.
US Sen. Lindsey Graham lambasted Trump and called the decision a “disaster”, urging that the US withdraws from Syria simply means handing over that country to Russia and Iran. And US Sen. Chris Coons called it a “great big Christmas gift” to leaders of Russia and Iran, while paving the way for them to exert greater influence in the region.
Israelis, too, were not pleased with the decision, seeing it as spurring the spread of Iranian influence in the region. In reaction to US decision to withdraw forces from Syria, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged that his country will continue its military actions against Iran in Syria, and if necessary, will increase these measures.
Iranian government’s reaction to the US decision has been reserved. FM Mohammad Javad Zarif said the US presence in Syria was illegal from the beginning, asserting that his government doesn’t have enough information as to US plans to take a clear stance.
Some Iranian political experts see US decision to pull out troops from Syria a victory for Iran’s policies in the region. They view this decision to disadvantage of Tel Aviv. The US withdrawal, furthermore, has propaganda value for Iranian government. They can claim that in a symbolic war with potential for direct confrontation between Iran and America, Iran has remained loyal to its ally –Syrian government –while the United States is withdrawing its forces. Iran has been after creating a corridor through Iraq and Syria to access Lebanese Hezbollah. US withdrawal from Syria seems to grant that wish for Iran.
On the other hand, some other Iranian analysts are suspicious of the plan, seeing it as a part of US determination to focus all its power on Iran and limiting Iran’s political influence in the region. To them, if US forces withdraw from Syria, Iran and its military forces must leave this country as well, thus making access to Lebanese Hezbollah difficult for Iran.
Iran has already started taking measure to consolidate ties with Russia, whose partnership seems to Iran to be the key to success in Syria. Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Qassem Taghizadeh said, in his recent meeting with Gen. Ossipov, Deputy Chief of Russia’s General Staff of Armed Forces, that Iran is after “developing and deepening” defense and military cooperation with Russia in all fields.
Military Tension Escalates in Gulf between Iran and US
As the USS John C. Stennis – an aircraft carrier – entered Gulf’s waters, IRGC Ground Forces launched a war game – “The Great Prophet” — in Qeshm Island close to Strait of Hormuz. IRGC vessels – in a provocative measure – tailed the Stennis, and one small vessel launched a drone to film American ships. On the Iranian boats, some were clearly seen as filming the Stennis. IRGC forces also tested several rockets away from the carrier and the ships. This is the first time that a US aircraft carrier has entered the Gulf after the US pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran.
The military muscle flexing comes after the United States pulling out of the nuclear deal and re-imposing comprehensive sanctions against Iran. When US President Trump announced his intention as to cutting Iran’s oil export to zero, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded with threats to shut down Strait of Hormuz and not allow any other countries to export their oil.
US Defense Department’s officials had announced last month that the presence of the USS aircraft carrier in the Gulf meant to show America’s power against Iran.
On the occasion of the war game, IRGC officials reiterated their usual rhetoric of military powers and capabilities. Brigadier-General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of IRGC Ground Forces, talked of Iran’ military strategy as both defensive and offensive. IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari called this war game a decisive response to ‘enemies’ claims. Meanwhile, Gholamali Rashidi, commander of IRGC Khatam al Anbiya Headquarter, who was in Qeshm for the war game, went so far as to threaten Iran’s neighboring countries. Habibollah Sayari, deputy coordinator of Army, undermined the presence of USS Stennis in the Gulf, urging that Iran will not allow the US carrier to enter its territorial waters.