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Iranian Officials Scoff at Impact of New US Economic Sanctions

Iranian officials are ridiculing the importance of new U.S. economic sanctions against Tehran. Opinions of Iranians outside the country, however, are divided on what impact the sanctions will have.

Iranian media and various government officials are deriding the significance of new U.S. economic sanctions against their country, in an apparent wave of nationalistic sentiment.

The Iranian News Network is claiming that President Barack Obama was insincere in his offer last year to extend a hand of friendship to Iran. It repeats a statement by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Mr. Obama "extended a steel fist, covered by a velvet glove."

In Damascus, Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, told a press conference that the United States was imposing economic sanctions on his country "to help Israel," and urged Islamic nations to impose their own sanctions on the Jewish state.

In Tehran, the head of parliament's national security committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, told Fars News Agency that it was "the U.S. economy that was on the verge of collapse, like that of the former Soviet Union."

Another member of parliament, Mohammad Dehghan, insisted that "no sane country welcomes sanctions, but that Iran has been under sanctions and survived for 30 years, now."

President Obama signed into law a package of tough, new energy and financial sanctions against Iran on Thursday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that the parliament should impose economic sanctions on U.S. companies, like Coca Cola and IBM. Iranian television showed Mr. Ahmadinejad Friday scoffing at the U.S. sanctions, claiming that Iran would, in fact, benefit from them:

He says that Iran is a large country with 75 million people and has large reserves of oil and gas, making it able to increase supplies of gasoline to the public in addition to reducing consumption. He claims Iran is ready for sanctions, and they will provide opportunity to the Iranian economy.

Iranians outside the country remain divided over the impact of U.S. sanctions.

Former President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who lives in exile in Paris, thinks the sanctions will have dual effects.

He says the facet of U.S. sanctions concerning human rights will have a positive impact, but that the clause limiting gasoline imports and investment in the oil sector will hurt the people, much as economic sanctions hurt the people in neighboring Iraq during the final years of Saddam Hussein's rule. He says economic sanctions will damage the Iranian economy, creating galloping inflation and widespread poverty. The Iranian people, he thinks, will not vent their anger on the government, and that, instead, the government will increase its control of the people.

Houchang Hassan-Yari teaches political science at the Royal Military College of Canada.

"If the sanctions continue to target the Revolutionary Guards, their companies, officials in the government, and so forth, that would not be received badly by the population," said Houchang Hassan-Yari. "But, if the sanctions have a direct impact on the daily life of people, the reaction could be different; although the economic situation in Iran is so messy that you cannot really make a distinction about what is going to impact what."

Iranian-born analyst Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS Center in Tel Aviv thinks the Iranian government is trying to calm public fears about the outcome of sanctions, but remains worried.

"The Iranians are condemning the sanctions publicly," said Meir Javedanfar. "They are calling them the sign of weakness of the West and are basically trying to calm domestic nerves by saying that Iran won't be affected by the U.S. sanctions, something which is highly disputable."

Javedanfar argues that Iran's recent decision to suspend nuclear negotiations with the West for two months was hasty and will likely strain relations with neighbor and ally Turkey, which wants talks to resume quickly to avoid serious economic disruptions in the region.