By Golnar Motevalli
Less than a year ago, Amir was in a soiree at the Brazilian Embassy in Tehran, exchanging business cards with shoemakers eager to sell a market of 80 million Iranians.
The product of The evening still flatters the walls of its shops: Brazilian flip-flops and slippers. But now the shoes are under government bans on foreign imports as Iran tries to suppress the effects of President Donald Trump's exit from the nuclear deal, which has opened the door to new suppliers.
"Many retailers have closed and I am selling the stock I still have," said Amir, 27, behind the cash register in his small shop in a shopping arcade in a prosperous area of northern Tehran. "As soon as I sell everything, I'll probably be unemployed," he said and did not want to be identified by his full name, as he had reservations about talking to foreign media.
The fiery exchange between Trump and President Hassan Rouhani has fueled fears among Iranians that things will only get worse.
Since Trump brought the US out of the agreement in May, the Iranian currency has reached record lows on the black market and foreign companies, including Peugeot's parent PSA Group and Total, have withdrawn their operations. What remains are the deep structural weaknesses in the Iranian economy, which have been exacerbated over the decades by embargoes, corruption and nepotism. Due to years of poor regulation, banks are paralyzed by bad loans.
Sanctions lifted under the nuclear agreement will now return within a few days, while Trump warned Rohani not to threaten the US or to bear the consequences. Record temperatures have meanwhile led to power outages in cities and water shortages, which have sparked protests. The Iranians say they are worried that the government is overwhelmed by the plethora of events.
"Rohani's government has no real understanding of what will happen and what will happen to those sanctions," said Saeed Laylaz. Reform economist who has advised the government. "People have lost their confidence and they demand efficiency ̵
Instead, the leadership is trying to get things under control, he said. "The strategy is firefighting," said Laylaz. "They are dealing with crises."
There is little evidence that Rohani's position is seriously endangered, but the rapid deterioration of people's prospects would make any leader vulnerable, let alone one where Islamic conservatives exercise such power. The cleric spent just over a year in his second term, trying to forge unity with hardliners who always opposed the nuclear agreement.
However, many Iranians blame US foreign policy as intentionally destructive and ridiculous about the Trump government's stated goal of helping Iran over the longer term by bringing the country back to the negotiating table. They see themselves as collateral damage in a geopolitical chicken game.
"If you do anything to destroy the economy, how does that help us?" Said Parisa, 32, who runs a fitness center she opened with a friend last October. "I think people feel trapped between Trump's policies and the way the leaders act here."
The frustration with the government, especially among the reformists who voted for Rohani, is growing. Some legislators are talking about how a new generation of Iranians introduced food coupons and rations in the 1980s that shaped life during the conflict with Iraq.
Parisa, who voted for Rohani, said she has shelved the plans because of the collapsing currency to expand her business. Most of the equipment she needs, such as weights and yoga mats, is imported, she said, and declined to be identified with her full name.
Aliasghar Rezaei is another who wants to pursue a different course for Iran. Under the boiling heat of Tehran, he steers his sluggish Iranian-produced Peugeot 406 through city traffic. Rezaei has been operating a textile factory for 35 years. He closed it a year ago and started working for a ride-hailing app.
"In general there is no hope and it feels like we're at the bottom of the line," said Rezaei, 58, who supported the Shah's overthrow in 1979. "I fought for the revolution, and I would probably still, but something has to change."
The government has tried to restore order in the economy and to show that it has control.
Rouhani unmasked some of the illegal practices importers and dissolved a number of government-affiliated networks that had controlled car imports for profit. Several officials from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Mining were arrested last week. Rouhani has instructed his deputies to accelerate efforts to combat bribery and is expected to shake up his cabinet.
After the sharp decline of the Iranian hard currency ruble – the euro is 100,000 riyals in uncontrolled markets, according to Tasnim news agency Compared to about 40,000 rials last year, the government tried to stop panic buying. It set a fixed price for the dollar, limited foreign exchange sales to travelers, and closed foreign exchange transactions.
But politics declined because some companies took advantage of the difference between the central bank's fixed rate and the illegal black market while others went bankrupt. 19659003] Seyyed Ali Jafari returned to Iran in 2014, one year after the election of Rohani from the United Arab Emirates. The prospect of sanctions and rapprochement with the West opened the opportunity to build an Internet business and target foreign companies seeking to advertise online in Iran.
Four years later, Jafari and his business partner are now considering applying for visas and leaving the country after their customer base has been decimated, especially since Trump tore US involvement in the nuclear deal. They have lost the data center that hosted their server because they can not afford the operator and are trying to serve a small group of domestic customers, Jafari said.
"Our goals for revenue and page impressions and for attracting foreign customers have all fallen apart," Jafari said. "The situation for our company has deteriorated significantly since May, with currency problems, total lack of access to dollars and foreign exchange means we can not find any on the market, we have lost foreign customers and suppliers."
Enge Controlling dollar and euro delivery and banning overseas purchases of overseas commodities means many suppliers and retailers are struggling to survive.
Shoe dealer Amir Since he was a teenager, he has supported the family business with three stores in the Iranian capital. He said he could not remember a time when things would have felt more precarious and insecure. A shipment of shoes was blocked by Iranian customs a month ago and stuck there, he said.
"The whole country is in a state of stress," he said. "It's like everything is quiet."