SANCTIONS imposed by the United States have long made it a bother to use credit cards in Iran. As a convenience to visitors annoyed by having to lug wads of cash, Iran’s savvier carpet dealers and hoteliers have evaded the blockade by collecting credit-card charges overseas, in places such as Dubai, and then wiring the funds to their local accounts.
That neat trick has now grown trickier. Complying with recently tightened international sanctions, financial regulators in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which includes Dubai, have frozen dozens of Iranian bank accounts and clamped strict controls on currency transfers to the Islamic Republic. The sudden squeeze on foreign-currency supplies, which also hit Dubai’s large and lucrative merchandise re-export trade with Iran, sent Iran’s rial, which had held steady against the American dollar for years, into an abrupt 15% plunge late last month. Jittery citizens mobbed Tehran’s currency dealers, desperate to buy dollars before another fall.
Iran’s central bank soon intervened, injecting enough dollars to steady the market. Yet the brief panic revealed that, for all the bluster of their leaders, ordinary Iranians are increasingly worried and indeed hurt by sanctions. These now take many forms, from an outright ban on the import of Persian carpets to America that took effect last month to the targeting of individual officials for alleged human-rights abuses, the stopping of Iranian operations by big multinat... >>>
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