Iran: Illicit Trade and Internal Corruption

Now, the state affiliated Tasnim News Agency reports that these exports aren’t just up slightly to compensate for restrictions associated with the nuclear talks; they are up by 85 percent compared to the same six-month period last year.

Reports such as this apparently aim to paint a picture of serious economic growth under the administration of Hassan Rouhani. Naturally, though, not all of these claims are accurate. And the Iranian propaganda networks have other narratives that also help to mitigate the public’s perception of economic pain. Al-Monitor highlights this trend in its report on the conviction of former Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi on corruption charges.

Al-Monitor quotes a Tehran-based analyst as saying that such high-profile convictions, which usually carry light sentences, “let out some steam and… try and convince the public that the system is taking corruption seriously.” Furthermore, this strategy allows the current administration to put all blame for corruption and economic mismanagement in the past, even though evidence indicates that these are ongoing problems.

By calling attention to past corruption, the current administration is also able to advance the narrative that US-led sanctions are not working. Indeed, during the nuclear negotiating process, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has lauded Iran’s resistance economy as overcoming those sanctions, without acknowledging that they had been significantly alleviated by the American executive. The influx of unfrozen assets allowed Iran to proceed with development projects, for which Rouhani has personally taken credit.