TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's sanctions-fighting resistance economy suddenly got a lot leaner, less flashy and perhaps a bit more uncomfortable.
The Islamic Republic announced Thursday a ban on imports of 75 so-called luxury products — ranging from high-end cars to coffee and toilet paper — part of efforts to promote domestic products and stem the outflow of currency as Western economic pressures increasingly choke off Iran's commerce and critical oil revenue.
It's the most sweeping measure so far to batten down the Iranian economy, although the move is not likely to leave showrooms and store shelves empty.
It allows for foreign parts to be shipped in for local assembly plants, which make cars such as Peugeots, European-brand home appliances, laptops and mobile phones — all covered by the new ban.
It seems the government is desperate to control the flow of money outside the country, said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a Syracuse University professor who follows Iranian affairs. If you want a clear signal about how the sanctions are hitting Iran, this is a good one.
Western sanctions have cut sharply into Iran's oil sales, which account for 80 percent of the country's foreign currency revenue. At the same time, Iran has been barred from the major international banking systems, which has helped push the Iranian currency to record lows and forced merchants to resort to hand-carrying gold and cash from the nearby commercial hubs of Istanbul or Dubai.
Iranian officials, meanwhile, have floated proposals to roll back some of the country's uranium enrichment — the centerpiece of the battle over Tehran's nuclear program — if the U.S. and European allies remove some sanctions. Nearly every major foreign brand — Coca-Cola Co., Samsung Electronics, Panasonic — make their way to Iran through local subsidiaries or assembly plants. Other products such as Apple iPads arrive via black market routes from Turkey, the Caspian Sea or across the Persian Gulf.