On March 21, Iran’s leaders marked Nowruz, the Persian New Year and the first day of spring, by declaring victory over the protesters but acknowledging economic difficulties. Both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi blamed months of “riots” on Western powers. American and European countries “openly offered weapons, and financial and security support to rioters to at least weaken the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei claimed during a speech in Mashhad. Western powers were trying to “plunder” Iran and dominate it both politically and economically, he warned. Iran was still ready, however, to engage with any European country that does not “blindly follow U.S. policies.”
Raisi and Khamenei admitted that Iranians, especially the working class, were struggling amid inflation and high prices. Raisi said that inflation had fallen from 59 percent in September 2021, during his early days in office, down to 43 percent in February 2023. “But this number is not satisfactory in my opinion.”
In a separate Nowruz message to the nation, Khamenei said that the increase of prices of basic necessities, including food, was “truly upsetting.” The supreme leader called for a surge in domestic production and investment in the new year. Khamenei has promoted a “resistance economy” centered on self-sufficiency. He has long contended that Iran’s economy is strong enough to weather U.S. sanctions.
On foreign policy, the two leaders said that U.S. power and influence in the world, especially in the Middle East, was waning. The Americans “are confused and desperate because if they stay in the region, like in Afghanistan, they will face the increasing hatred of nations and will be forced to leave the region,” Khamenei said.
Raisi welcomed the start of a “new world order” in which power was shifting to Asia. He said that Iran’s geographic position in the center of the continent gave it an advantage. He lauded the government for boosting ties with neighbors, pivoting to Asia, and restoring balance to foreign policy. On March 10, 2023, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic ties seven years after severing relations. China brokered the diplomacy between the two regional rivals. President Raisi had traveled to Beijing in February 2023, the first state visit by an Iranian president in more than two decades.
Over the past year, Iran also deepened ties to Russia by providing drones and artillery used in the war against Ukraine. Khamenei, however, denied any Iranian involvement in the conflict. “This is a war launched by America for an eastward NATO expansion,” he said. “America and its arms manufacturers are the ones reaping the biggest profits out of it.” The following are statements by Iranian officials on Nowruz celebrations for the year 1402, in the solar Jalali calendar.
Khamenei in two Nowruz messages:
On foreign policy and Iran’s enemies
“In everything they [Western powers] do, they seek to politically and economically dominate Iran and plunder it.”
“Which country and revolution do you know that has been able to resist the blows of the world's most powerful countries? The Iranian nation has stood firmly against a long chain of the enemy's schemes, including coup attempts, sanctions, and media assaults.”
“During recent unrest, the U.S. president and heads of states of certain European countries openly offered weapons, and financial and security support to rioters to at least weaken the Islamic Republic. But what happened was the opposite.”
“With regard to foreign relations, the West’s efforts to isolate Iran have failed.”
“Our relations with Asia became 100 percent stronger and we will continue to do so.”
“We haven't refused to have any relations with Europe. We are ready to work with any European country or government that does not blindly follow U.S. policies.”
“Some of the sanctioned countries put an end to their dependence on the U.S. dollar, and their situation got better. We know certain countries, which I won’t name, that have been heavily sanctioned by the West. Their link to SWIFT, which is a Western-led international mechanism, was cut. They then put aside the U.S. dollar and conducted transactions and imported and exported with national currencies, and their situation got better. We should do the same thing.”
“There is no military attack in hybrid warfare. But foreign propagandists and their followers in the country attack the political and religious beliefs of the people with temptation so that they undermine the nation’s will, sow despair among the youth, and make them disappointed about the future, work, and progress by fudging the facts.”
“In a hybrid warfare, the enemy uses the media and cultural, security, and economic elements as well as its influence to bring blockades against the nation, to cause despondency, and to cause people to ignore their own potential.”
“It’s been years that the enemy vociferously asserts that they want to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees. But the supreme leader says in response that 'You can’t do a damn thing.' This is not a repetition but endurance and insistence on the righteous thing as per order of God.”
“We categorically deny any involvement in the Ukraine war. And such a thing is not true at all.”
“The path and policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran toward the region is clear, and we know what we’re doing. But the Americans are confused and desperate because if they stay in the region, like in Afghanistan, they will face the increasing hatred of nations and will be forced to leave the region. And if they leave, they will lose their ambitions. This confusion is indicative of their obvious weakness.”
On the economy
“In my opinion, in 1401, the most important issue for the nation was the issue of the country’s economy, which is directly related to people’s livelihoods. On the matter of the economy, there were bitter moments but also sweet ones.”
“The bitterness was mainly because of inflation and high prices, which is truly upsetting, especially the increase in the price of food and the basic necessities of life. When there is a significant increase in food prices and the prices of basic necessities, the economically weaker sectors of society are the ones who are impacted the most, because food items and the main, essential living supplies have the largest share in their household basket. As a result, the pressure is mainly on them, and this of course, was one of the bitter occurrences. In my opinion, regarding the major economic issues of the country, this issue was a more fundamental, significant matter that was bitter.”
“Based on the information I have received, production was supported in the country in the year 1401. Thousands of factories that had been shut down or were semi-operational started operating again.
“There was an upsurge in knowledge-based companies. Of course, it was not as much as what I had asked for in the previous year, but there was still a significant increase in the numbers of these companies. There was also an increase in the product value of these companies.
“The issue of employment improved. That is to say, unemployment decreased by a percentage – even though it was a small percentage – and employment increased a bit, which is something that should be valued.”
“[T]hese constructive activities must continue this year, in the year 1402, so that they can create prosperity in people’s lives and bring food to their tables, especially among the weaker social classes.
“So, I spoke about production, and I place importance on it, but investment is also important alongside production. I would like to draw the attention of both the respected government officials and the private sector to this matter. In the last decade, we fell behind greatly in terms of investment. The issue of investment is one of the important gaps in our country. Investment needs to take place. This too is an important task.
“Considering all these different aspects, the things that are important, including both inflation and domestic production – inflation is the main problem and domestic production is definitely one of the keys to saving the country from economic problems. So, considering these matters, I would like to announce that this year’s slogan is ‘Inflation control, growth in production.’”
Raisi speech to the nation:
On foreign policy
“In the field of foreign policy, the government's approach from the beginning was ‘balanced diplomacy’ and ‘revival of neighborhood policy and regionalism.’ The year 1401 was the year of fruition of this policy.”
“’Balanced diplomacy’ means that we did not wait for countries that hesitate to cooperate with Iran. Procrastination in the new world and new order causes the country to lose its role and position.
“Iran’s position in the region is a strategic and irreplaceable position. One of the important features of the new world order is the transfer of power to the Asian continent. The role and hegemony of America in the world is declining.
“Among the strategic plans of the government in the new year is to use the unique and strategic position of dear Iran and to activate the ‘North-South’ and ‘East-West’ corridors to achieve a place on the level of the great nation of Iran in the new order.”
On domestic problems
“In this year, we had tragic natural events, such as the Hormozgan and Khoy earthquakes and floods in different parts of the country, as well as the tragic accident of the Abadan Metropole [a multi-story building that collapsed], which saddened both the Abadani people and the dear nation of Iran. In all of these incidents, the government's effort was a quick, effective and reassuring presence on the scene.
“Apart from the natural events that I mentioned, issues such as the autumn riots and the terrorist attack on the holy shrine of Shahcheragh also made the Iranian and Muslim people sad.
“The unrest was not a small issue, it was the product of the conspiracies of Iran's enemies, which started almost one year after the government took office.
“From August 2021 to August 2022, contrary to the predictions of the ill-wishers, the government's project, which was to restore the hope and trust of the people, made significant and acceptable progress, and in fact, the sanctions project failed with the government's detailed planning and thanks to the people's trust and support.”
“In the first year of the government, several important events took place: one, the failure of the sanctions project; two, improving macroeconomic indicators; and three, increasing the public trust of the people. This caused Iran's ill-wishers to turn to the other side of the sanctions coin, which was unrest, another branch of hybrid warfare. They tried to disrupt the progress of the country through riots, create social and political divide and isolate Iran in the world, but the Iranian nation stood up to this big and multi-layered conspiracy and defended the Revolution and Iran.”
On the economy
“As your servant, there is not a day that I do not suffer from the hardships of people's lives and livelihoods, especially the weaker brackets. In terms of reducing inflation, the 59 percent inflation in September 2021 reached 43 percent in February 2023, but this number is not satisfactory in my opinion. The main plan of the government in 2023 is to control inflation along with sustainable economic growth.”
“New records were recorded in the field of knowledge-based companies, and the government's promise in the field of employment was fulfilled. In the production sector, the nine-month growth [rate] reached 3.7 percent, and in the employment sector, the unemployment rate reached 8.2 percent, which is the lowest rate in recent years.
“One of the challenges of the 1390s, which is the lost decade of the country's economy, was the low and negative growth of investment in some years, but this year, investment grew well like other sectors.
“In 1401, more than three thousand stagnant or semi-stagnant factories and production units were activated. In the knowledge-based sector, 140 important and key projects were started in the sectors of energy, agriculture, space, transportation, medical equipment, biotechnology, and employment in science and technology parks and growth centers increased by 50 percent.”
On government services and infrastructure
“In the field of health, the government was able to fulfil its promise of curbing coronavirus by completing the public vaccination and with the cooperation of the people, in the first months of the year. The increase of more than 10,000 hospital beds, free health insurance for nearly six million people in the bottom three brackets of society, and free hospitalization services in cities under 20,000 people were other government services in the health sector.
“In other sectors, the government's services to the people were continuous and uninterrupted. Guaranteed purchase from farmers grew by 60 percent, more than 200,000 schools were built in one year, nearly a thousand kilometers of highways and main roads were put into operation in the country, and six space launches, including the Noor 2 satellite launch, were successfully carried out.
“In the fields of infrastructure and construction projects, the government's basic strategy of completing half-finished works continued in 1401.
“The Zahedan-Khash strategic railway project, the huge water transfer tunnel to Lake Urmia, the large Ghadir project to supply water to our dear Khuzestan, numerous large projects to supply water to Sanandaj and Hamedan, water supply projects to 1500 villages in the country, the start of operations to transfer water from the Persian Gulf to the Central Plateau, the big Bushehr desalination project, Hazrat Mahdi hospital in Tehran, phase 14 of South Pars, the development of Abadan refinery and several other huge projects in the field of oil and gas that you witnessed, thank God, have been completed.
“The opening of numerous power plant projects in the country also increased the electricity generation capacity by seven thousand megawatts in the country, as a result of which we were able to prevent the repetition of past blackouts, even during the peak summer consumption period.”
On domestic politics
“In the field of domestic politics, this year is the year of elections for the Islamic Consultative Assembly and the Assembly of Experts. The government's plan is to lay the groundwork for the participation of the people and the formation of a strong parliament. The government does not belong to any faction. The faction of the government is the faction of the revolution and dear people. The more popular elections are held, the better it is for our dear country.”
“None of the government managers received a blank check to be continuously present in the government and in the institutions, but they are continuously subject to evaluation. If I see that a person does not have the ability or qualification to serve the people in jihad, it is natural that they will be replaced by another motivated and expert force.”