Iran: Waiting For The Godot Of Post-Sanctions Relief

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

It is now four months since the Iran nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), went into effect and, still, Iran is waiting for the promised sanctions’ relief — that are hampered by the non-nuclear western sanctions on Iran. Little surprise, then, that a growing segment of the Iranian population is beginning to turn skeptical and blame the US for double-crossing Iran.

In a latest rebuttal of the US’s disfunctional policy toward Iran, the representatives from the major European banks, who were lectured about doing business with Iran by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, have criticized Kerry’s request and branded is as a “very odd position” by asking Europe’s banks to engage with Iran while restricting US firms from doing so.

Unfortunately, the US is an old hand in self-contradiction, has a long record in not keeping its treaty obligations, and its repudiation by the European banks ought to send a strong signal to Washington that there is something serious amiss that requires urgent attention and immediate correction. The problem is compounded, however, by the fact that the White House and the Congress are at odds with each other when it comes to Iran, and with the Obama administration outgoing and a lame duck president, no amount of assurances by Secretary Kerry will suffice to eradicate the fear factor on the part of western banks that shun any major Iran business; the latter is highlighted by the public position of HSBC, whose chief legal officer, Stuart Levy, has penned in the Wall Street Journal, reminding the audience of the hefty US fine on the bank in 2012 for breaching Iran sanctions.

Another complicating factor is the coming US elections, in light of Republican candidate Donald Trump’s public stance against the nuclear deal, which is under attack through pending legislation in Congress as well. Trump’s opponent, the Democrat Hillary Clinton, has feebly endorsed the JCPOA, which essentially means that whoever in the White House come next year, the nuclear deal’s problems will likely intensify, despite the fact that it is a multilateral agreement and not easy candidate for rescinding by a single party.

A big question is, however, what happens if the American non-compliance with their obligations under the nuclear agreement continues and thus aggravate Tehran’s sense of a betrayal? No doubt, this will backfire against the moderate president Rouhani and his reformist supporters, who have placed so much hope on the economic benefits of the nuclear deal. Already, Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, has voiced his growing disappointment at the Americans, whom he has never trusted based on past experience. In retrospect, historians may view this yet another historical de ja vue, in light of the previous examples of how the US has basically undermined the Iranian political moderates, such as former president Mohammad Khatami, by not reciprocating the other side’s concessions.

Another question is, of course, if this makes any sense and even serves US’s own interests? The answer to both is an emphatic no. The US companies are self-sanctioned by counterproductive, Iranophobic, legislation that must be removed in order to unfetter US-Iran business, not likely in the present political circumstances in the US, which in fact is moving in the opposite direction of augmenting those fetters, irrespective of some relaxation of rules by the US Treasury. Sadly, the US’s Iran policy is mortgaged to anti-Iran third parties in the region, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as a result of which the Godot of Iran post-sanctions relief will be waiting for the foreseeable future.

But, time is a critical factor against the Iran deal and swift remedies for the complicated web of Iran-averse financial fetters above-mentioned must be found, or the future of the nuclear agreement inevitably looks bleak, thus turning a win-win diplomatic breakthrough into its exact opposite of a lose-lose, with the only winner being the wolves of crisis howling on the horizon.

*Kaveh Afrasiabi, Ph.D, is a former political science professor at Tehran University and the author of several books on Iran’s foreign policy. His writings have appeared on several online and print publications, including UN Chronicle, New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Journal, Harvard International Review, and Brown's Journal of World Affairs, Guardian, Russia Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Mediterranean Affairs, Nation, Telos, Der Tageszeit, Hamdard Islamicus, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Global Dialogue.

Source: Eurasia Review

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*Photo Credit: REUTERS/Paul Hackett

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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