DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s currency hit a new record low on Sunday, dropping past 100,000 rials to the U.S. dollar as Iranians brace for Aug. 7 when Washington is due to reimpose a first lot of economic sanctions.

The rial has lost about half of its value since April because of a weak economy, financial difficulties at local banks and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians who fear the effects of sanctions.

The central bank blamed “enemies” for the fall of the currency and a rapid rise in the prices of gold coins and the judiciary said 29 people had been arrested on charges that carry the death penalty.

On Aug. 7, Washington will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s purchase of U.S. dollars, its trade in gold and precious metals and its dealings with metals, coal and industrial-related software.

Sanctions also will be reapplied to U.S. imports of Iranian carpets and foodstuffs and on certain related financial transactions.

Iran’s oil exports could fall by as much as two-thirds by this year due to sanctions, straining oil markets amid supply outages elsewhere.

***  Diverse, Decentralized, Non-Binary: Iran Popular Uprising ...  photo

As it stands at the moment, it is still possible to characterize the damage done to a Saudi oil tanker in the Red Sea by a Houthi missile as a continuation of the occasional Houthi attacks on Saudi coalition vessels that started in late 2016.  That may be a reason why the latest attack, which occurred on Wednesday 25 July, has gotten little coverage in Western media.

But the sequence of events on Wednesday and Thursday suggests it’s more than that.  The morning of 25 July, Houthi sources reportedly took credit for targeting a Saudi vessel in the Red Sea. Regional reporting suggested their intended target was Saudi frigate Al-Dammam (F-816). Read more in detail here.

Iran Protests: US condemns arrest of 'peaceful' protesters  photo

***Additional reports of regime changes:

The change in the Rouhani administration awaited by both critics and supporters appears to have started on July 25 with the replacement of Iran’s central bank governor and news of the Planning and Budget Organization (PBO) chief’s offer to resign.

This comes as Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri has said economic hardship could prompt the government to resort to food rationing.

Abdolnasser Hemmati was appointed central bank governor,and PBO Chief and Administration spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht told the press he has offered to step down in order to give President Hassan Rouhani a free hand in reshuffling his economic team.

Nobakht added that Rouhani had still not accepted his resignation as of Wednesday afternoon, ISNA reported. Rouhani’s chief of staff also told reporters in Tehran, “Whatthe media quoted Nobakht as saying is not true.”

Iranian media had reported that Rouhani had offered Nobakht’s job to former Economy Minister Ali Tayebnia but that he rejected the offer.

ISNA noted that the fact that the first change in the administration took at the central bank reveals Rouhani’s priorities in tackling the country’s economic crisis.

Reports from Tehran say that changes are also under way at the industry, economy, and housing ministries.

*** A lot of help for the Iranian people coming from the United States. In part:

Pompeo said, “You should know that the United States is not afraid to spread our message on the airwaves and online in Iran, either. For 40 years, the Iranian people have heard from their leaders that America is the Great Satan, we do not believe they’re interested in hearing the fake news any longer.”

***

Mr Pompeo stopped short of calling for regime change, but he announced stepped-up US government broadcasting in Farsi that is likely to foment further unrest against the government.

He said the US Broadcasting Board of Governors is taking steps to circumvent internet censorship in Iran, and creating a round-the-clock Farsi channel across television, radio, digital and social media formats, “so that ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe will know that America stands with them”.

Mr Pompeo said the Trump administration would be willing to hold talks with the Iranian government if it stops repressing dissidents and religious minorities and stops supporting militant groups in conflicts elsewhere in the region. But the one sentence offer in a long speech suggests that Mr Pompeo deems any behaviour change by Iran unlikely.

Many of the Iranian Americans in the audience either fled or are descendants of those who fled the country after the Islamic Revolution toppled the Shah in 1979. Southern California is home to about 250,000 Iranian Americans.

“To our Iranian American and Iranian friends,” Mr Pompeo said, “tonight I tell you that the Trump administration dreams the same dreams for the people of Iran as you do, and through our labours and God’s providence, that day will come true.” More here.

Denise Simon