Person walking down empty city street at night (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)
A lighted image of Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei borders a Tehran street closed by COVID-19, which the leader initially dismissed as "negative propaganda." (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)

The Iranian regime is struggling to avoid economic disaster after the regime’s years of economic mismanagement and terrorist financing.

More than 7 million Iranians have lost their jobs or been furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, regime spokesman Ali Rabiei recently acknowledged, according to Voice of America (VOA). Rabiei added that upward of 35 percent of Iranians are struggling to make ends meet.

Hassan Rouhani sitting in front of flag (Office of the Iranian Presidency/AP Images)
President Hassan Rouhani leads a Cabinet meeting March 18 in Tehran. (Office of the Iranian Presidency/AP Images)

Saheb Sadeghi, a Middle East analyst, says in a May 5 op-ed in Foreign Policy magazine that Iran’s bleak economic outlook left President Hassan Rouhani little choice but to reopen businesses, despite fears of worsening the outbreak. Rouhani reopened business in mid-April.

“The Rouhani government’s revenues have shrunk dramatically,” Sadeghi writes. As a result, Iran’s regime would have struggled to keep the economy afloat under a continued economic shutdown as other countries have done, he adds.

Iran’s economy was in dire straits even before COVID-19 struck. The International Monetary Fund predicted in October 2019 that Iran’s economy would contract by 9.5 percent in 2020.

“Even before the virus struck, the Iranian economy already had collapsed, and now that people have been told to stay home, it has gotten worse,” Zartosht Ahmadi Ragheb, an Iranian opposition leader, told VOA April 14.

The turmoil comes after Iran’s regime has for years put terrorist financing above the needs of everyday Iranians. In 2019, Rouhani pulled $4.8 billion from the National Development Fund for state propaganda and terrorism, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei initially dismissed fears of the coronavirus as “negative propaganda” circulated by the regime’s enemies to drive down voter turnout in February 21 parliamentary elections. The regime also has downplayed the consequences of the outbreak.

Person in protective clothing preparing a grave (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)
A burial near Babol in northern Iran April 30. A panel of Iran’s parliament says the regime has downplayed COVID-19 deaths. (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Images)

In mid-April, the research arm of Iran’s parliament reported that Iran had suffered upward of 8,700 deaths, nearly twice the 4,777 deaths the regime had reported at the time, according to Radio Farda. The panel also reported 600,000 infections, approaching eight times the regime’s figure of 76,389 cases.

Despite the added hardship COVID-19 has brought to the Iranian people, Iran’s regime continues to spend its people’s resources on terrorism. The United States has imposed sanctions that seek to compel the regime to stop fueling violence and spend its money at home.

In a March decree, Khamenei increased funding for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, by 33 percent over the parliament’s allocation. He also increased funding for the Basij Resistance Force, which uses child soldiers to export terror and crack down on domestic dissent, by around 50 percent.