Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Sunday declared that ongoing sanctions relief has created a “safe, stable business environment” in Iran and that the country is now “open for business,” a direct response to statements maintaining that the Islamic republic is “not open for business” from among others Treasury Department Under Secretary David Cohen, State Department Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, and various anonymous administration officials. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama have both explicitly echoed those statements. At stake are a broad range of criticisms worrying that the administration mishandled interim negotiations with Iran, in this context by underestimating the degree to which an initial erosion in the sanctions regime would trigger a downward spiral, with Iran’s markets and as companies rushing not to be left.
“This is a safe, stable business environment,” Zarif said at a joint press conference with Belgium counterpart Didier Reynders in the Iranian capital. He invited Belgian companies to “place themselves strategically” and consider business partnerships with Iranians. More than 100 French businesspeople traveled to Iran earlier this month to explore potential deals in the energy, construction, aviation and automotive industries.
Skeptics had immediately predicted that the psychology of fear which kept sanctions in place would give way to a feeding frenzy, while analysts linked to the White House dismissed their concerns as “fanciful.” Evidence has piled up on the side of the skeptics. On Tuesday Reuters reported that India is preparing to pay $1.5 billion for Iranian oil, while the Washington Free Beacon disclosed that Pentagon contractors with more than $100 billion to throw around are exploring deals with Iran.
One senior Senate aide who works on the sanctions issue said that the Obama administration is sending a hypocritical message to the world by not cracking down on federal contractors.
“How is Congress supposed to take Wendy Sherman and [Treasury Department official] David Cohen seriously when mega defense contractors are among those companies heading back into Iran?” asked the source. “If the administration really wanted to enforce existing sanctions, they’d start by sending a shot across the bow at companies that get billions of dollars from the U.S. Government.”
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