By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Iran’s currency has tumbled against the dollar to its lowest level ever as the country grapples with U.S. sanctions, the coronavirus, and low oil prices.
The rial fell to as low as 193,400 against the dollar on the street market on June 20, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com. The economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad gave the dollar rate as 190,800.
The Iranian currency has plummeted more than 600 percent against the dollar since Iran and world powers in 2015 signed a nuclear deal. Before Iran recorded its first case of the coronavirus in mid-February, the rial was trading at around 140,000 against the greenback.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed crushing sanctions that sent the economy into a tailspin and fueled inflation.
Iran came under further diplomatic pressure on June 19 when the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors called on Tehran to stop denying it access to two suspected former nuclear sites.
The coronavirus pandemic and falling oil prices have contributed to the bleak economic outlook.
Iran has been the Middle East’s hardest-hit nation by the pandemic with 9,500 deaths and more than 200,000 positive cases so far.
Iran’s central bank chief, Abdolnaser Hemmati, has said the country is trying to access billions in dollars of funds frozen abroad to provide liquidity to the market.
In an Instagram post on June 20, he sought to downplay the psychological impact of the IAEA resolution and other factors impacting the market.
“The circumstances created by corona, the temporary pressure on the foreign exchange market…and the psychological atmosphere caused by the resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors should not give the wrong signal,” Hemmati said.
“Despite the limited oil revenues, the country’s foreign exchange balance is good and the central bank will continue to provide the needed currency…despite continued U.S. pressure,” he added.
In May, Iran’s parliament voted to slash four zeros from the currency and replace it with the toman, which will be equal to 10,000 rials. The law must be ratified by the Guardians Council, a powerful hard-line constitutional watchdog.