The year 2022 can a critical year for Iran, one of the most populated counties in the Middle East is facing increasing economic challenges, poverty and possibility of war if the nuclear talks fail.
What is Iran doing about its nuclear program and how is Iran adjusting its position in relation to the outside world, especially the Western countries could have consequences for the countriy’s economy and the Iranians’ living basket. Regardless of the consequences of the nuclear talks, Iran has to tackle the rising inflation, instability of the plunging Iranian Riyal, and its implication for Iranians living baskets. Iran is also facing a water crisis and environmental problems which are shaping the demands of a growing protest movement – especially of farmers and those living in the peripheral regions of Iran. Protests and strikes of workers, teachers, retirees, protests about the environment, and the distribution of resources could possibly change the face of 2022 for Iran and the Iranian people.
The Nuclear Deal and Frustrating Vienna Talks
There are little doubts that the current talks in Vienna that Iran is engaging in could change the country’s future. One scenario is that in the upcoming weeks Iran agrees to revive the nuclear deal or agrees to some less for less agreement. This increases engagement in the global economy with the removal of some sanctions, at least on Iran’s oil industry. It could also mean facilitated transfer of frozen funds of Iran from countries like South Korea which have kept more than $7 billion in funds for oil shipments as a result of US sanctions.
The opposite drastic scenario has loosely been called the Trigger Mechanism. If Iran pulls out from the ongoing talks in Vienna, hard sanctions against the country and occasional military engagements are possible. Then the US and its allies, including Israel, can possibly target Iran’s nuclear sites, the country’s missile plan sites, and the presence of forces close to Iran in the Middle East. Measure against Iran could range from harsh economic sanctions to occasional cyber or military interventions. Most likely a third way somewhere between these two scenarios will emerge. But would it be more close to diplomatic means for peace or to more conflict and war?
Growing Poverty and the rising Inflation
Regardless of the talks with Western countries, and Iran’s position in the world, it is not realistic to assume that decades of inflation would suddenly improve with positive outcomes of the nuclear talks. Iran’s hardliner authorities are optimistic. They expect that this year, Iran’s economy will hVW 2.1 percent growth. This prophecy, however, is controversial and far from a rational expectation for the economy of 2022.
Unbridled inflation, rising food and medicine prices, a sharp decline in the average purchasing power of households, and rising unemployment are the outcry of any Iran-related economic report. Even pro-government media outlets acknowledge Iran’s difficult economic situation. As a result of the widespread poverty of the people, the news of the increasing number of petite and large robberies, the increasing number of Iranian urban population losing their houses or moving to slums, the growing homelessness and child labor was prevalent in the year 2021. The latest news that shocked Iranians last week was that a large number of homeless took refuge on city buses to sleep at night and, for a small fee, spent the night on a bus that was a little warmer and perhaps safer than the street.
Even if the Iranian authorities reach a compromise with the West, albeit temporary, one cannot expect a fast or drastic economic improvement. The most optimistic analysts close to the Iranian government only hope that the country’s economic situation will not worsen.
Water Crisis and the Environmental Problems
The water crisis, the unprecedented drought, climate change, and the mismanagement of environmental issues cannot be ignored in the image of Iran at the end of 2022. Large parts of southern and central Iran have been severely damaged by floods as the year 2021 ended, and local officials say at least eight people have been killed in floods.
Environmental crises and mismanagement has caused and will continue to cause large-scale forced migrations and economic and social unrest in the country. Iran witnessed the dark face of these upheavals during environmental protests of 2021. Both in the water protests of summer 2021, and the Isfahan farmer’s protests of November 2021, protesters demanded water justice and more equal distribution of resources which they argued will lead to better living conditions with regard to environmental issues and the water crisis. The environmental protesters who are demanding access to water and better living conditions are from poorer populations, farmers, and ordinary urban and rural citizens that battle for their basic rights to access to the natural resources of the country.
The protests of various groups including trade unions and workers in 2021 have reached an irreversible point. In the last months of the year, teachers and educators held protest rallies in at least 80 cities. Workers in the oil and gas sector also went on strike repeatedly in the year 2021. Iranians online also repeatedly expressed their deep dissatisfaction with the widespread censorship of the Internet, and human rights activists have continued to face harsh repression, arbitrary detentions, and forced confessions.
Journalists were increasingly faced with layoffs or repressive interventions. Prisoners, especially political prisoners, are in a challenging situation. Covid-19 infections increased among Iranian political prisoners and prison authorities did not provide proper care to prisoners. Baktash Abtin of the Writers’ Association of Iran was taken from prison to a hospital after he contracted covid-19 and after proper care was denied to him. Abtin is now in a coma fighting for his life. Two days ago, news of the death of a civil activist in prison was published, and Iranian judicial officials confirmed his death after he went on a hunger strike.
If Iran is to continue its downward economic trajectory, there is no doubt that the dissatisfaction of various workers, employees, teachers, civil activists, environmental activists, journalists, and human rights activists will increase in the year 2022. Economic conditions of Iran and inflation will certainly be affected by the outcome of the nuclear talks which so far has promised confusion for Iran in 2022.