Iran’s supreme leader has lashed out at European nations for supporting economic sanctions against his country in the latest salvo by an Iranian political leader responding to the country’s currency crisis.
In a speech in the northeastern city of Bojnourd on Wednesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the European states “foolish.”
“They are sacrificing themselves for the sake of America, and it’s foolish,” he told a crowd during a speech broadcast on state television. “This [sanctions] is a war against a nation. Of course, with the grace of God, they will be defeated by the Iranian nation in this war.”
Khamenei contrasted last week’s street protests against the plummeting value of the rial in Tehran with ongoing economic protests in Europe.
“For an hour or two a number of people set two or three garbage cans on fire in a couple of streets in Tehran, and they [the Westerners] started to celebrate and said there are protests in Iran,” Khamenei said. “Is our situation worse than yours? There have been protests on streets of major European countries for around one year, during day and night. Your problem is far more complicated than ours. Your economy is frozen. Do you celebrate that Iran’s economy has been weakened? It’s you that are wretched.”
Khamenei also addressed the notion that some of Iran’s economic problems are homegrown, saying inflation and unemployment are the country’s two most important problems but that they could be solved.
“They [sanctions] may create problems. Mismanagement may even increase these problems. That’s correct but it’s not something the Islamic Republic can’t resolve,” he said.
Khamenei called the sanctions “illogical” and “barbaric” and said the relationship between sanctions and Iran’s nuclear program is a “lie.”
Bernd Kaussler, an assistant professor at James Madison University in Virginia who focuses on Iran, agrees that the coordinated international effort to put pressure on the Iranian economy is starting to create problems for Tehran.
“It seems to me that Europe has come a long way from the early days of constructive engagement and is now in tandem with U.S. policy, to the extent that EU sanctions against Iran are in accordance with legislation passed in the U.S.,” he said.
Khamenei is the latest Iranian leader to address the people in the wake of a dramatic decline in the value of the country’s currency, the rial.
Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed “psychological pressures” linked to Western sanctions for the currency fall while also denying charges by political rivals that his economic policies have worsened the situation.
Also last week, hardline cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University “these [economic] pressures won’t last,” and that Iran “has proven that it will not be worn down by pressures and has experienced how to live with problems.”
The rial has lost a third of its value in the past week and dropped as much as 80 percent over the past year, further compromising Iran’s already shaky economy. Iran’s official inflation rate is 25 percent. Western sanctions have severely restricted the country’s ability to sell oil on the world market and limited its access to the international banking system.
The sanctions have been imposed over Iran’s refusal to stop its uranium enrichment program. Iran claims the uranium is for nuclear energy, while the U.S. and its allies say Iran is striving to build nuclear weapons.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.