Mike Shuster

Iran is stockpiling gold. That's the way David Cohen sees it. He's undersecretary of the Treasury, and the Treasury's point man for the banking sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Iran.

"Iran is attempting to hoard gold, both by acquiring it and by preventing the export of gold from Iran, in a somewhat desperate attempt to try and defend the value of its currency," Cohen says.

Iran is hurting. Economic and banking sanctions, plus an effective oil embargo led by the European Union, have brought chaos to Iran's economy. The bottom fell out of its currency, the rial, a couple of weeks ago, provoking street protests. Iranians of all social classes are struggling to cope.

Large crowds of anxious Iranians gathered in Tehran on Sunday and Monday at foreign exchange offices — some of which had shuttered their doors — as Iran's currency continues its free fall.

From Sunday to Monday, the rial lost nearly one-third of its value against the dollar — and the decline appears to have continued Tuesday.

Yukiya Amano is frustrated.

Last week, Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a meeting of the agency in Vienna that he is aggravated by Iran's unwillingness to show the IAEA what's going on at a base called Parchin.

"Iran should engage with us without further delay on the substance of our concerns," he said. "We need to stop going around in circles, discussing process."

Iran appears to be facing a crisis more serious than anything it has experienced since its war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, President Bashar Assad's regime is under threat from the widening war in Syria, Iran's sole ally in the Arab world. Domestically, the European oil embargo and U.S. banking sanctions are undermining the Iranian economy, bringing inflation, food shortages and unemployment.

Iran is trying to maintain a defiant posture, without much success.

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