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Iran's Middle Class Feels the Pinch: Are Sanctions Working or Failing?

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Hason Rezain reports from Iran that international sanctions are hitting the Iranian middle class, who are beginning to complain loudly about the collapse of the Iranian currency. The middle class is feeling the pinch in part because the Iranian regime is targeting the poor for subsidies and cash payments as the economy craters.

Thus far, the hit to the middle class seems to come in the form of foreign luxury goods -- cell phones, tablets, cosmetics, etc. Iranians are also less able to travel abroad, proof that sanctions are, if nothing else, beginning to isolate Iranians from the outside world.

The big question is where blame for this deprivation will fall. If more Iranians end up blaming the U.S. and Western powers for their hardships, the sanctions regime could backfire (especially if it fails to actually stop Iran from obtaining some nuclear weapons capability). If the current regime takes the blame, it could catalyze a revolt -- which is clearly the hope of the world powers currently arrayed against Iran.

Gallup data from earlier this month showed that the vast majority of Iranians blamed the U.S. for the sanctions targeting their country (47 percent). Only 10 percent blamed their own government.

According to a new report from the International Crisis Group, Iranian leaders are likely to respond to sanctions not by modifying their nuclear program but by modifying their domestic economy to adapt. As they do so, the report warns, the current regime could become more entrenched as it becomes the key economic player determining who gets what inside Iran.

The report is not completely hostile to sanctions, however. It notes that sanctions can be an effective means in getting Iran to the table and that absent the sanctions regime, Iran may have made even more progress on its nuclear program than it has to date.

(AP Photo)