The people of Iran live in economic despair. Inflation affects the poor most desperately, with the cost of staples, including eggs, increasing by 50% last year alone. Meanwhile, youth unemployment is estimated at roughly 40%.
President Hassan Rouhani promised that a new era of prosperity would follow implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal. According to some estimates, the deal released more than $100 billion in frozen assets, and it was supposed to open the country to foreign investment. However, ordinary Iranians have seen no change for the better.
Instead, the Revolutionary Guard has involved itself in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, while the savings of low income families have been decimated.
When details of the national budget became known, they sparked outrage. While the regime was increasing funding for foreign adventures, it was planning cuts to social welfare and higher consumer gas prices.
The president doesn’t need to wait for an act of Congress to take action. He can immediately declassify information about the financial holdings of those affiliated with the Iranian government. Precedent for such an action lies with The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which became law in August. It mandates that the secretary of the Treasury report on the holdings and ownership stakes of Russian oligarchs and politically influential, quasi-state entities, such as the natural gas giant Gazprom. An analogous report on Iran is necessary.
Reuters published a lengthy investigation into Khamenei’s holdings in 2013, revealing that through Setad, a conglomerate formed, in part, from “the systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to ordinary Iranians,” he controls at least $95 billion in assets. As well, according to Reuters, an estimated $700 million to $800 million goes to Hezbollah annually. Reuters provided a glimpse, how much more would be revealed if the United States government’s knowledge was made available?
Iran’s citizens, especially the youth, are demanding economic opportunity and basic human rights. By supporting them, the United States will help itself.