EXCLUSIVE: Crippling sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran since President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year have left pension funds throughout the country on the brink of collapse, according to documents reviewed by National Security Council officials and obtained by Fox News.
U.S. officials are pointing to this as evidence of just how punishing the ongoing “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has been.
“They have fewer resources. We can see it with the Shia militias in Iraq. They’re scrambling for resources. We think the Iranian government will shrink, that their GDP will shrink by as much as 12 or 14 percent this year,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday,” speaking to the economic impact. “This will reduce their capacity to purchase the things they need, the equipment they need, the materials they need, to inflict terror around the world.”
The impact has been so severe that of the 18 existing retirement funds in Iran, 17 are in the red, according to these documents. That includes the pension funds for all of Iran’s armed forces.
As much as 80 percent of Iran’s retirement funds rely on government subsidies, which the documents refer to as unsustainable for not just pensions but for food products, drugs and fuel.
There are also signs of a growing crisis in Iran’s real estate market. The documents refer to the interconnected challenges as a “house of cards.”
Trump – who campaigned during the 2016 election calling the Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran “the worst deal ever” – announced plans for the U.S. to withdraw from the deal in 2018.
However, American allies France, Britain and Germany are still in the Iran nuclear deal, trying to salvage it and allow Iran to sell its oil. Iranian officials have met with France and Japan, while China continues buying Iranian oil despite American sanctions.
“I noted the repeated statements by @SecPompeo that Iran must change its policies in order for Iranians to eat is pure #EconomicTerrorism,” Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, recently tweeted. “Tying bread & medicine to politics is to kill & starve people into submission. Iranians will never capitulate.”
The details from the pressure campaign come amid reports that Trump is now considering throwing support behind a plan crafted by French President Emmanuel Macron that would extend a $15 billion line of credit to the regime in Tehran if leaders agree to come back into compliance with terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Iran has been taking steps away from those terms, most recently announcing it would take new measures to speed up uranium enrichment as part of its nuclear program.
A State Department spokesperson called that announcement “another transparent attempt to generate negotiating leverage and extort the international community,” and added: “We have made clear that the regime’s political and economic isolation will only deepen if it takes further steps that increase concerns about its nuclear program.”
Meanwhile, questions remain over whether Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month.
Trump has expressed a willingness to meet Rouhani, but the Iranian president has ruled it out, saying no meeting can take place until the United States drops sanctions.