Before long though, Caspian stopped allowing withdrawals. After three months, it stopped paying interest. Finally, in May, it shut its doors for good — becoming one of the largest in a long series of failures of Iranian financial institutions in recent years.
.. The outpouring of anger was directed not only at President Hassan Rouhani, who won re-election promising to revitalize the economy, but also the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
.. The cascade of defaults, economists say, was not just the result of risky banking practices, but also a case study in official corruption — a major reason Iranians found their losses so infuriating. Adding to their outrage, Iranian officials made a series of statements blaming the victims for not being more careful with their money.
.. Many of the institutions, including those that merged in 2016 to form Caspian, were allowed to gamble with deposits or run Ponzi schemes with impunity for years, in part because they were owned by well-connected elites:
- religious foundations, the
- Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or
- other semiofficial investment funds
in the Iranian state.
.. as many as hundreds of thousands of people lost money because of the collapsing financial institutions. Iranians have a term for the growing class of victims: “property losers,” or “mal-baakhtegan” in Persian.
.. regulators have quietly steered many of the companies into mergers with larger banks to try to absorb their losses, but that has created a worsening problem of bad loans and overvalued assets throughout the banking system.
.. Economists say that as many as 40 percent of the loans carried on the books of Iranian banks may be delinquent.
.. Even Iran’s supreme leader, Mr. Khamenei, has acknowledged responsibility for the growing number of victims of “problematic financial institutions.”
“These appeals must be dealt with and heard out,” he said this month. “I myself am responsible; all of us must follow this approach.”
.. The corruption underlying the bank failures has long been an open secret
.. The loans totaled $1.9 billion, and almost all appeared to be held by well-known insiders.
.. Among them was Hossein Hedayati, a business tycoon and former member of the Revolutionary Guards, whose swift rise was so conspicuous that websites speculated about the sources of his sudden wealth. The document released by the lawmaker showed that Mr. Hedayati owed $285 million, and in a television program discussing the loan, another lawmaker, Mohammad Hassannejad, accused Mr. Hedayati of using a series of front companies to swing the loans and hide his role.
Mr. Hedayati dialed in to the program, sputtering with rage; he denied borrowing from Sarmayeh and threated to “sue everyone,” but has yet to follow through on the threat.
.. Clerics controlled religious foundations, called bonyads, that acquired commercial businesses. The largest of these, under the supreme leader, now makes up “15 to 20 percent” of the Iranian economy
.. All the semiofficial holding companies have major advantages over private businesses in favorable access to capital, tax exemptions and political connections.
.. But under a conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2005, semiofficial bodies controlled by clerics, the Revolutionary Guards or their allies dominated the newly private financial sector.
.. the Revolutionary Guards controlled at least two, while the army, the police, the municipality of Tehran and a giant religious foundation close to the Guards controlled the others.
.. the largest were usually run by individuals close to the same ruling elite
.. They say that made it almost impossible for even the best-intentioned regulators to police the banks.
.. The outsize returns promised by the banks and financial institutions lured capital that might better have gone to more productive uses
.. leaks about the high salaries of executives at state-run companies
.. The government has since tried to block the use of Telegram in Iran
What Russia and Iran have in common is someday their people will say ‘enough.’
.. Vladimir Putin must get a clammy feeling from the logic of Iranians taking to the streets against a corrupt government conducting costly adventures in places like Syria.
.. The average Iranian in the street doesn’t think the benefits of the nuclear deal failed to materialize. He thinks they were hijacked and hoarded by regime cronies.
.. Widely reported was the Obama administration’s shipment of $1.7 billion in untraceable cash, via cargo plane, directly to Iran’s leaders. Of 110 international business deals touted in the Iranian press as the fruit of sanctions relief, a Reuters accounting showed that 90 went to companies controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or other top officials.
.. the average Russian has seen his real income continue to shrink, no end to sanctions
.. Nor can the Kremlin shield him from the growing phenomenon of internet-based reporting on the absurd luxuries enjoyed by such regime favorites as Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, much less the astonishing offshore wealth of Mr. Putin’s personal “friend,” the cellist Sergei Roldugin.
.. In both countries, normal, patriotic feeling has clearly begun leaching away from leaders whose defining quality is hypocrisy.
.. Under current leadership, 100% of everything is gobbled up in the corrupt power rivalries and overseas adventures of the leadership class (e.g., the Syrian war).
.. Nobody predicted the Arab Spring, the Ukrainian revolution that overthrew his ally Viktor Yanukovych, or the roadside execution of Gadhafi, an omen that Mr. Putin reportedly dwells on.
.. He was angry at Hillary Clinton for what he considers her efforts to foment a coup against him personally.
.. What the U.S. has over such countries is stable institutions in which to contain unpredictable events and forces.
Mike Flynn. In 2016, the retired general published a book that made clear where he stood when it came to Russia.
“Although I believe America and Russia could find mutual ground fighting Radical Islamists,” he and co-author Michael Ledeen wrote, “there is no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us; quite the contrary, in fact.”
Lest there be any doubt as to where the future national security adviser stood, Flynn went on to stress that Vladimir Putin “has done a lot for the Khamenei regime”; that Russia and Iran were “the two most active and powerful members of the enemy alliance”; and that the Russian president’s deep intention was to “pursue the war against us.”
All this was true. Yet by the end of the year, Flynn would be courting Russia’s ambassador to Washington and hinting at swift relief from sanctions. What gave?
What gave, it seems, was some combination of financial motives — at least $65,000 in payments by Russian-linked companies — and political ones — a new master in the person of Donald Trump, who took precisely the same gauzy view of Russia that Flynn had rejected in his book.
.. the president’s craven apologists insist he’s right to try to find common ground with Russia. These are the same people who until recently were in full throat against Barack Obama for his overtures to Putin.
.. Yet the alleged naïveté never quits: Just this week, he asked for Putin’s help on North Korea.
The better explanations are:
- the president is infatuated with authoritarians, at least those who flatter him;
- he’s neurotically neuralgic when it comes to the subject of his election;
- he’s ideologically sympathetic to Putinism, with its combination of economic corporatism, foreign-policy cynicism, and violent hostility to critics;
- he’s stupid; or
- he’s vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
.. Each explanation is compatible with all the others. For my part, I choose all of the above — the first four points being demonstrable while the last is logical.
.. There’s no need to obsess about electoral collusion when the real issue is moral capitulation.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking at an event marking the first day of Ramadan, accused Saudi Arabia of trading its wealth with “pagans and enemies,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
“The stupid Saudi government thinks it can attract the friendship of enemies by giving them money,” he said.
Khamenei added that Saudi Arabia’s rulers faced “certain downfall” for aligning itself with the U.S, Reuters reported.
“They act cordially towards the enemies of Islam while having the opposite behavior towards the Muslim people of Bahrain and Yemen,” he said. “They will face certain downfall.”