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Friday July 19, 2024

Iran sanctions take centre stage in presidential campaign

By AFP
June 25, 2024
Iranian reformist presidential candidate Massoud Pezeshkian at a campaign rally in Tehran. — AFP/file
Iranian reformist presidential candidate Massoud Pezeshkian at a campaign rally in Tehran. — AFP/file

TEHRAN: Iranians broadly deplore Western sanctions that have battered the economy, but the country´s six presidential candidates offer differing solutions -- assuming the winner gets a say on foreign policy.

Punishing US sanctions, reimposed following Washington´s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, have brought years of economic hardships, fuelling political malaise and wide popular discontent.

With the June 28 snap election fast approaching, debates between the candidates vying for Iran´s second-highest office have featured a key question: should Tehran mend ties with the West?

Under the late president Ebrahim Raisi, who died last month in a helicopter crash, Western governments have expanded sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme as well as its support for militant groups across the Middle East and for Russia in its war in Ukraine.

The sanctions have sharply reduced Iran´s oil revenues, heavily restricted trade and contributed to soaring inflation, high unemployment and a record low for the Iranian rial against the US dollar.

At Tehran´s bustling Grand Bazaar, shopkeeper Hamid Habibi, 54, said years of sanctions “have hit people very hard”. “Sanctions should be removed and ties mended with the US and European countries,” he said.

In two televised debates focused on the economy ahead of the presidential polls, “almost all the candidates explained that the sanctions have had devastating effects”, said Fayyaz Zahed, a professor of international relations at the University of Tehran.