In his speech before Congress Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the sanctions against Iran, spearheaded by the US, had had a very debilitating effect on Iran – and continuing those sanctions was the only way to ensure that Tehran did not develop a nuclear weapon.
In an analysis Wednesday, Israeli business newspaper Globes listed some of the economic damage done to Iran by the sanctions – and according to the report, that damage has been substantial. In 2013, the first full year of sanctions, Iran's GDP fell for the first time since 1995, at a negative 5% rate. In 2014, the economy grew slightly, by up to 1.5%, as sanctions were partially eased and Iran was allowed to export some oil. Analysts said that the Iranian economy was as much as 20% smaller than it should be.
Since 2012, Iran's unemployment level has been hovering around 20%. As foreign companies began closing down their operations in the country as sanctions were imposed, millions of Iranians lost their job. In 2009, at the height of the worldwide recession, unemployment in Iran was 10%.
Iran's economy is very dependent on oil exports, and the sanctions have badly hurt that business. In 2011, Iran exported 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, with that number falling to 1.1 million last year. Much of that loss is due to the European Union's total ban on Iranian oil purchases. The US was not a customer of Iran's oil even before 2012.
Iran has substantial assets outside the country – as much as $80 billion, which sanctions have frozen in various banks around the world. Iran's domestically-held foreign currency reserve is not known, but to preserve what it has the government has imposed harsh bans on imports, like smartphones and other technologically advanced products.
One way the government has been trying to stay solvent is by printing money, and that has resulted in a high annual inflation rate of about 25%. In July 2013, after the U.S. banned all business with Iran, the country's currency began spiraling out of control, with a devaluation causing inflation of up to 70%. The easing of sanctions last year brought inflation down to 25%.