Iran has been under US sanctions for a long time now.

Why isn't Iran collapsing like Venezuela or Cuba?

How is Iran sustaining its economy?

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    Cuba might be the instructive example. It's been collapsing for half a century now, and shows no signs of stopping. The key is that the sanctions are considered illegitimate by most of the world - an unjustified exercise of power and coercion. Despite endless assertions of benevolence etc, the consensus view in the global audience is that it's all a long and unsuccessful attempt to coerce the target country into a political change primarily for the benefit of a regional hegemon. This doesn't mean the target country is pure & innocent, the audience can compare to actions of the other party.
    – Pete W
    Nov 26 '21 at 15:40
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    @PeteW I don't think one country refuses to deal with another country and bars export to that country is considered illegitimate action, though not friendly.
    – r13
    Nov 26 '21 at 19:10
  • 3
    @r13 - sure, but efforts to economically isolate targets go much further than that, preventing commerce with third parties. The perception of being illegitimate is made even worse by non economic policy, like attempts to start wars, assassinations, etc
    – Pete W
    Nov 26 '21 at 20:31

Iran has worked around US sanctions by exporting stuff that's not subject to them or hard to trace. They switched from crude to refined oil products, for instance:

The United States imposed sanctions on Iran's oil and gas industry in 2018 to choke off the Islamic Republic's main source of revenues in a dispute with Tehran over its nuclear work.

The steps crippled crude exports but not sales of fuel and petrochemicals, which are more difficult to trace. Crude can be identified as Iranian by its grade and other features, while big oil tankers are more easily tracked via satellite.

Iran exported petrochemicals and petroleum products worth almost $20 billion in 2020, twice the value of its crude exports, oil ministry and central bank figures show. The government said in April they were its main source of revenues. [...]

In addition, Iran exports some fuel by trucks to its neighbours, which involve small transactions that are tough for the U.S. Treasury to detect. [...] Gasoline was delivered by truck to Afghanistan and Pakistan and shipped to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) across the Gulf, a source close to Iran's Oil Ministry said, declining to be named. [...] Iran resumed fuel exports to Afghanistan in August at the request of the Taliban [...] The government of Iraq, which has for years imported gas and electricity from its neighbour under U.S. waivers, did not respond to requests for comment about the gasoline trade. [...]

Iranian oil production is now about 2 million to 2.5 million bpd, with around 2 million bpd allocated to domestic refineries and roughly 500,000 bpd to exports, a source close to the oil ministry said, adding that Iran could boost crude output by 2 million bpd in two to three months if sanctions were lifted.

Until sanctions were imposed, crude exports were Iran's main revenue source, typically exceeding 2 million bpd and reaching 2.8 million bpd in 2018. [...]

Chinese firms remain the main buyer of Iranian liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), methanol, and many other products, trading sources said.

Basically, Iran still exports' only a quarter of their crude now compared to 2018, but a combination of diversification and some sanction busting through intermediaries has helped mitigate.

It's also incorrect to say Iran is not feeling any pressure. Inflation is almost 45% this year alone. And the exchange rate to the dollar is up almost 740% since 2015.

The Iranian rial is now about 270,000 to the dollar — compared with 32,000 rials for $1 at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. That has decimated people’s salaries and savings.

Inflation has soared to 45%, the highest level since 1994, while food prices have skyrocketed by nearly 60%.

Here's an inflation graph, only up to 2019 (so no pandemic effect). Basically it shot up from ~10% year before the Trump sanctions to 40% in 2019.

enter image description here

Those numbers a much higher than Cuba's by the way... although the official figures in Cuba are a bit more iffy because of the large[r] internal black market. Cuba has taken a much more severe hit from the pandemic due to their dependence on tourism.

Interestingly Gallup can actually run some polls in Iran, and according to one of these, the locals' view on economic prospects isn't that good.

enter image description here


At first, Iran still exports oil, mainly to China and the amount of Iranian export has increased in the last year, but there is a major problem there: Iran cannot get dollar and it receives chinese goods instead.

But the major source of Islamic Republic's income in the last 3-4 years does not come from outside but from inside Iran mainly by increasing taxes and above all the sharp increase of the fuel price. In fact last year the fuel price has increased three times and it led to perhaps the biggest protests in the history of the Islamic Republic.

About Why the economy is not collapsing, I think it has already collapsed and Iran suffers from hyperinflation for many years, yes it's lower than Venezuela's inflation but we should consider that Venezuela's problem started sooner and it's possible that Iran has the same situation after some years.


By selling oil to countries that don't care about US sanctions.

The USA is not the entire World market. It's only a little bit of it.

  • 1
    However Iran's income from selling its goods (non-oil goods) had dramatically increased (almost doubled) since 10 years ago, specifically since the so called Maximum sanctions campaign. You can read more about that increase in "Art of sanctions" page 139. (That book is for the era before Max sanction campain, after that non-oil income even increased more than what is stated in that book and imports had decreased)
    – user48
    Nov 26 '21 at 17:19

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