MEK Iran: Regime Restricts Cryptocurrency
On Tuesday, it was widely reported that Iranian officials had enforced a restriction on cryptocurrency mining until March 6, in order to avoid winter energy shortages. It is the second such restriction this year, however, doubts remain regarding the extent to which the last ban was enforced, considering that many of the businesses involved in both permitted and unauthorized cryptocurrency mining activities have ties to the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
People are unable to have reliable home heating in winter
The previous prohibition was enacted in the aftermath of large-scale protests over summer power outages. The demonstrations culminated insignificant and occasionally fatal confrontations between Iranian citizens and regime police, adding to Tehran’s concerns about the nationwide uprisings in January 2018 and November 2019. The latest prohibition was apparently prompted in part by fears about the possibility of more unrest if Iranians were unable to have reliable home heating or light over the winter.
Cryptocurrency mining is a high-energy process that requires the continuous operation of computer servers to verify transactions using complicated calculations. However, because bitcoin is virtually unconnected to any specific legal or financial body, the Iranian dictatorship pounced on it last year as a potential source of funds and a way to engage in international trades without facing severe sanctions enforcement concerns.
IRGC challenge with institutions aggravated by cryptocurrency
The IRGC became involved in cryptocurrency mining even before the government officially licensed it as a way to extend a financial empire that already comprised enormous parts of the black market and accounted for the great majority of the country’s gross domestic product.
Even as the national economy has worsened, the IRGC has been able to weather the consequences of economic sanctions thanks to the unlawful nature of its dominion. The contradictions between the nation’s interests and the interests of the IRGC and other regime institutions have only been aggravated by cryptocurrency mining and energy shortages.
If the new restriction does not effectively stop IRGC-linked mining operations, tensions will undoubtedly rise. Even if it succeeds, there’s no certainty that Iran would be able to avoid the looming winter shortages. The fact that the cryptocurrency mining ban is simply one of several measures taken by the regime to reduce consumption demonstrates this.
The IRGC is diverting national income away from people
Authorities recently unveiled a program called “Fuel for All,” in which individual users will receive 15 liters of gasoline per month at a reduced cost of 15,000 rials. Additional quantities will be required under the scheme to be purchased at the market rate, which is now around the subsidized amount.
Although the government now intends to maintain the current price for moderate-consumption families and companies, the state-run power supplier will set different energy caps for different locations and charge a 50% higher price for those who exceed it by 1.5 times. Those that consume twice as much electricity as they are allowed will be charged 1.5 times the baseline rate or 10,000 rials instead of 4,000.
Of course, in the coming months, a variety of uncontrolled factors will influence fuel and electricity demand, including the severity of winter weather and the durability of Iran’s old civilian infrastructure. Protests over the last year have pointed to deficiencies in that infrastructure as proof that institutions like the IRGC are diverting national income away from people’s basic needs and toward pet projects like supporting paramilitary proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
The IRGC, according to its statute, “is an entity under the command of the Supreme Leader”. The IRGC hinges on exporting fundamentalism, terrorism, and warmongering, and this in itself is bent on the universal doctrine of the mullahs’ rule. In this regard, the IRGC has been entrusted to fully advance the regime’s nuclear weapons program.