"We could survive in this country with $15 billion per year, and now we're making $100 billion, $90 billion," says the banker, whose operational costs have "increased tremendously" under current sanctions, though his bank is not a target. "There is no way we should give in under pressure."
That economic gusher has helped President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mask an array of problems, from overspending and inflation near 25 percent to high unemployment. Strategically, it has also enabled Iran to lock in its anti-Western and anti-Israel stance, even while 160,000 US troops are in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.
"In the past two, three years, they employed all their might, resorted to propaganda … and sanctions," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech on Wednesday. "If the enemy thinks they can break the Iranian nation with pressure, they are wrong…. Today, they know their plans have failed."
How to deal with Iran topped the agenda in Europe during President Bush's farewell visit this week for an EU-US summit. He said his "first choice" was to solve the Iran-US standoff diplomatically, though "all options are on the table."
He said a nuclear-armed Iran "would be incredibly dangerous for world peace" and warned Iran of new sanctions "if you continue to deny the just demands of a free world." Bush won more EU support for sanctions.