Sixty economists in Iran recently signed an open letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad critical of his economic policies. The letter said that Mr. Ahmadinejad's "tension-making interaction with the outside world" was causing the country to pay "heavy economic, political and social prices."
The economists complained of the loss of investment and trade opportunities, and blamed the government's policies for Iran's skyrocketing inflation.
The letter was published just days after the United States Department of Treasury announced a new measure designed to block Iran from accessing the U.S. financial system. The U.S. will now no longer permit so-called "U-turn" trade transactions that permitted U.S. banks to process payments involving Iran, as long as the transactions began and ended up with a non-Iranian, non-U.S. bank.
The new measure is the latest in a series of steps taken by the U.S. to block Iran from using the U.S. financial system to fund its terrorist activities and nuclear and missile programs.
U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said the new measure is "not aimed at the innocent people of Iran":
"The Iranian people are already struggling under the regime's gross economic mismanagement, which has led to spiraling inflation which is now at 30 percent and an unemployment rate that many experts believe to be well over 20 percent."
To ensure that the U.S. can continue to help the Iranian people, said Mr. Levey, the U-turn transaction prohibition does not affect payments for humanitarian shipments of food and medicine, family remittances, and the export of informational materials to Iran.
Treasury Undersecretary Levey says that the Iranian regime's policies have led Iran to political, economic and financial isolation. But such isolation, he says, is not inevitable:
"Iran is still faced with 2 clear paths: to continue as a financial pariah, isolated from the world, or to seize the benefit and opportunity that reintegration into the global community would bring."
"The choice," said Mr. Levey, "is Iran's to make."