Iran currency crisis: riot police attack Tehran protestors

Oct 3, 2012

Ahmadinejad blames foreign enemies for domestic turmoil as merchants protest against regime

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RIOT police have been deployed in Tehran against protesters demonstrating against the government as the country's currency crisis entered its latest, most dangerous stage. Traders and merchants from the capital city's Grand Bazaar were protesting outside the central bank when they were set upon.

According to the BBC, police used tear gas against the demonstrators, who were calling for the central bank governor's resignation in the wake of precipitous falls in the Iranian rial's value. It was also reported that many shops in the bazaar had closed in sympathy with the protests.

It is a further headache for the beleaguered Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who claimed yesterday that the economic instability besetting the Islamic state is a result of a "psychological battle" being waged against the country by its enemies.

The president's remarks came as the Iranian rial plunged to a new record low on the foreign exchanges.

"It's a battle," he told reporters in Tehran. "Enemies have managed to reduce our oil sales but hopefully we will compensate for this." He angrily denied suggestions that the Iranian government was to blame for its economic woes, which have seen the country's currency lose almost a third of its value since Sunday, The Guardian reports.

"Are these currency fluctuations because of economic problems? No. Is this because of government policies? Never... It's due to psychological pressure. It's a psychological battle," he explained, placing the blame squarely on the sanctions being imposed against Iran because of its nuclear programme.

"If anyone thinks that they can put pressure on Iran [to force us to change our policy], they are certainly wrong," he defiantly added.

But Ahmadinejad’s industry minister Mehdi Ghazanfarim has offered a different analysis, focussing his ire on currency brokers who are "pursuing the increase in price because for them it will be profitable".

Ghazanfarim told Fars, the official Iranian news agency which was embarrassed last week for reporting a story from The Onion as fact, that the government would move to rectify the situation, saying that the "security services will control the branches and sources of disruption in the exchange market", The Daily Telegraph reports.

In signs of further tensions within the Iranian elite, Ahmadinejad's handling of the economic crisis came under attack from members of the country's parliament. Deputy speaker Mohammad Reza said yesterday that the government's only enemy was "illusion", and one MP suggested Iran’s rulers were manipulating the exchange rate.

"The president has deliberately kept the market agitated," said Elias Naderan, according to the Mehr news agency. "I really don't know what Mr Ahmadinejad is thinking. What plan does he have, what is his expectation of the system, and how does he plan to manage this disorder?"

And as if Ahmadinejad hasn't enough on his plate - with a 10,000-strong petition being delivered to his labour minister decrying rampant inflation, as The Week reported yesterday - he has had to cope with the humiliation of his personal cameraman defecting to the US during last week's trip to the United Nations.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Hassan Gol Khanban slipped out of the Warwick Hotel in Midtown Manhattan an hour before the presidential party was scheduled to return to Tehran.

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