While Iranians are preoccupied with the Presidential campaign, including Wednesday's second debate among the eight candidates, another story --- one likely to have impact far beyond the June ballot --- has been taking shape.
In the last 10 days, the US Government has expanded sanctions against Tehran on four occasions. Those measures have not only reinforced existing restrictions on the energy and shipping sectors; they have extended into areas far removed from Iran's nuclear programme. Among the new steps, confirmed by President Obama's executive orders, are sanctions against the automobile and petrochemical industries.
Even more significant is the ratcheting-up of measures designed to cripple Iran's financial transactions. One of Obama's orders this week threatens punishment of any firm trading in Iranian Rials or even holding Rial accounts --- the step is no less than an attempt to collapse the currency, which fell 70% last year.
All of this is taking place as Iran's oil exports continue to fall to historic lows. In April, the Islamic Republic exported only 741,000 barrels per day, a 30% decline from March and less than 1/3 the amount sold in 2011.
Meanwhile, the US, Israel, and European allies are banging the drum loudly over Tehran's purported nuclear threats. Over the last week, there has been a series of "leaks" to compliant journalists, recycling old stories as new menaces --- notable among these have been stories about Iran's developing heavy-water reactor at Arak, converted in the articles to a producer of plutonium for a Bomb.
All of this begs the question: is Washington going beyond pressure on Iran to the pursuit of regime change, through the cracking of the economy? If so, does the US have a vision of who and what might succeed the downfall of the current system?
The Tehran election office of moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani has said that there could be a possibility of a coalition between Rouhani and reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref in the coming days.
ISNA reported that the coalition was likely to be announced soon.
Moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani has mentioned detained opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi in two separate tweets.