Regime lost billions amid maximum pressure campaign, IMF report reveals
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images Adam Kredo • April 14, 2021 5:00 am
Iran burned through nearly all of its cash reserves in the final years of the Trump administration as harsh economic sanctions crippled the country’s economy and brought the hardline regime to the brink of financial collapse, according to findings published by the International Monetary Fund.
The Islamic Republic had $122.5 billion on hand in 2018 and just $4 billion by 2020, when the former administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran was at its height, according to the IMF’s 2021 Middle East and Central Asia report, which tracks the region’s economies. Iran burned through $118.5 billion in two years, nearly depleting its cash reserves. The country’s coffers are forecast to grow by several billions in the coming years as the Biden administration moves to unwind sanctions as part of an effort to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal.
The IMF’s findings are the clearest evidence to date that the years-long U.S. sanctions campaign was successful in emptying the regime’s pocketbook at a time when Iran was spending great sums on its foreign terrorism enterprise and nuclear enrichment program. Sanctions gutted Iran’s oil trade, a key source of revenue for the regime, and forced it to tap heavily into reserve funds. While liberal critics of this approach claim that sanctions only hurt the Iranian people, the IMF’s findings show the hardline regime was under more economic stress than previously known. It is also likely that Iran would not have been able to weather another four years of the Trump administration’s sanctions. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo said 96 percent of Iran’s foreign exchange reserves were “wiped out” as a “direct result of our maximum pressure campaign.”
Any sanctions relief granted by the Biden administration in its new diplomatic talks with Iran will provide the regime with a much-needed lifeline for survival. The country’s dire economic situation has generated several waves of democratic protests that threaten to depose the ruling