Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani presented a $337 billion draft budget to parliament and earmarked roughly $100 billion of it for so-called “public service programs” ostensibly to create jobs, address a banking crisis and introduce a new social security program.
In his televised remarks, Rouhani said banks need to “withdraw from business dealings” and return to traditional lending services amidst a crisis in the sector drowning in bad loans and a shadow economy of money lenders forced to operate on the margins by government-controlled economy that has funneled badly needed capital away from the private sector to fund a variety of military programs and wars.
The proposed budget comes with a raft of significant tax hikes and increases in fees and duties including steeper car registration fees and departure taxes sure to hit ordinary Iranians even harder.
While Rouhani’s budget grew by six percent over last year’s budget, inflation has been running at almost 10 percent, wiping out the effects of any budget growth in terms of real services delivered to the Iranian people.
Rouhani added in his speech the customary and desultory promises to eliminate poverty, create social justice and push for full employment; all promises that have about as much chance of being fulfilled by the mullahs as the Cleveland Browns of making the Super Bowl this year.
Rouhani had promised the Iranian people significant economic relief in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal two years ago and the lifting of economic sanctions. While the International Monetary Fund did report that Iranian gross domestic product growing a robust 12.5 percent last year, almost all of that growth was attributed to expanding oil exports with the lifting of sanctions.
The Iranian consumer economy remained stagnant and in areas such as agriculture, slid backwards. The IMF predicts growth to be a sluggish 3.5 percent this year now that oil exports have stabilized.
When coupled with Iran’s chrfgonic high unemployment (officially pegged at 12.5 percent, but likely higher), the economic outlook remains bleak for Iranian families.
Much of the blame lies squarely with Rouhani and his fellow mullahs who preside over an economy riddled with deep corruption, nepotism and cronyism. They also divert massive amounts of capital to military programs such as the crash development of ballistic missiles and foreign wars such as the Syrian civil war and Houthi uprising in Yemen.
Rouhani has frequently bragged of a whopping 145 percent increase in Iran’s military budget; largely resulting from the billions of dollars supplied by the Obama administration in payments for Iranian assets previously frozen during sanctions, including the now-infamous visual of pallets of cash being loaded onto a jetliner in exchange for a release of American hostages.
There is a certain irony in all of this since under the previous rule of the Shah, steep increases in military spending led to wide discontent among Iranians over the perceived lack of support for the consumer economy. A similar scenario is now developing under the mullahs in Tehran.
That heavy investment in military campaigns has paid dividends for the mullahs insomuch as it has helped drive conquests in several countries to help fulfill their ambitions of building an Shiite arc of influence stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Indian Ocean in a radical Islamic version of the old Soviet Warsaw Pact.
For top mullah Ali Khamenei it fulfills a vision he has long nurtured to wipe out Iranian regime’s enemies and secure a ring of protection from any potential attacks. For Khamenei, the preservation of his extremist ideology and the power death grip he maintains seems to be his most driving passion.
Key to fulfilling those ambitions has been his conscious choice to make the Iranian people continue enduring a war economy and funnel massive hoards of cash to developing a network of proxies to fight his wars and consolidate his gains.
This includes Hezbollah terror groups in Lebanon who served as cannon fodder in Syria, as well as Shiite militias in Iraq, recruited Afghan mercenaries and the Houthis that toppled the government in Yemen and now mount raids along the Saudi Arabian border.
All of which makes Rouhani’s comments that Iran stood ready to restore ties with Saudi Arabia if it stopped bombing in Yemen all the more fanciful and mostly propaganda fodder.
This also shows the duplicity of comments made by regime’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an editorial in the New York Times in which he urged Europe to continue working with Iran. He emphasized that the regime’s military capabilities were “entirely defensive” in nature.
It’s an absurd comment when seen in the context of Iran’s military actions are all occurring outside of its own borders! Zarif would be hard-pressed to prove that diving in the Syrian civil war and contributing to the deaths of half a million men, women and children is a “defensive” act.
In another disingenuous statement, Zarif defends Iran’s missile program by claiming it has only focused on precision targeting and not range as an example of developing conventional warheads and not nuclear ones.
He of course neglects the steady progress Iranian regime has made in building and test firing larger missiles with heavier payloads and longer ranges. The most recent missile tests earlier this summer showed off ranges that placed much of Europe, Asia and Africa within striking distance of Iran.
He goes on to claim credit for ending the bloodshed in Syria, but neglects to mention that Iranian regime’s intervention in the first place is what widened the war.
Overall, his editorial is a particularly adept example of fake news publishing.
Alongside Rouhani’s budget proposal, it’s no wonder the true costs of Iranian regime’s extremism remain hidden.