At a time when Iran’s Islamic regime is already facing unprecedented pressure over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as its disastrous handling of the economy, the global slump in oil prices could well prove to be the final straw for the ayatollahs.
Even before this week’s dramatic collapse in global oil prices, which saw the key gauge of U.S. crude prices, the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, tumble into negative territory for the first time in history, the mullahs were already under intense pressure over their catastrophic running of the country during their four decades in power.
A combination of the regime’s clumsy attempts to cover up the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, combined with the disastrous impact the US sanctions are having on the Iranian economy, have resulted in the regime facing the most sustained period of domestic dissatisfaction since the 1979 revolution.
With the collapse in the global oil market, the pressure on the ayatollahs is set to increase even further as they risk losing a vital income stream at a time when the country’s economy is already on its knees.
According to recent estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran needs global oil prices to reach the highly unlikely benchmark of $195 a barrel just in order to meet its budget requirements for 2020.
With current predictions suggesting oil prices are likely to remain around the $19 a barrel mark, the ayatollahs are facing the prospect of an economic Armageddon: the oil slump means there is little prospect of a revival in the country’s economic fortunes for the foreseeable future.
With inflation running at 35%, and the country facing widespread unemployment, the ayatollahs have become increasingly dependent on the country’s oil revenues to keep the economy functioning. Their ability to generate revenue from oil sales, though, has already been severely affected by the impact of US sanctions, with Iranian oil exports declining from their pre-sanctions level of two million barrels of oil per day to around 300,000 — a decline of more than 80%. Now, following this week’s slump, even that modest amount is under threat.