Q&A: What's with the war talk surrounding Iran?

Tensions over Iran’s nuclear program have escalated in recent weeks as the US and Europe ramp up sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

4. Have the sanctions started to bite?

Office of the Supreme Leader/AP/File
Iranian army cadets seen during a graduation ceremony in a military university, in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 10, 2011. Iran continues to threaten to cut off access to the Strait of Hormuz, and just this weekend claimed they have begun enriching uranium. As tensions with the West increase, what is to be made of talk of war?

Iran’s currency, the rial, lost more than 30 percent of its value relative to the dollar in early January, bolstering those who say Western sanctions are taking a serious toll. 

With Europe, which buys about 15 percent of Iran’s oil exports, considering a ban on purchases, Iran’s economic isolation looks set to deepen. While that’s something opponents of its nuclear program are cheering, the fallout of a currency collapse could be severe.  

Iran’s government has spent much of the past year cutting fuel subsidies and phasing out an annual $4 billion subsidy on bread;  2011 inflation was probably around 20 percent. A collapse in the currency could drive up domestic prices further and threaten the roughly 17 percent of Iranians living below the poverty line.

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