Germany has arguably been a leading contributor to the broader European push for investment in Iran. The Siemens deal coincided with a two-day visit to Tehran by German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel who had also brought 120 business managers to the Islamic Republic for high level talks over future investments and trade relations. Tru News pointed out on Monday that Gabriel’s latest visit was expected to result in a total of 10 new deals, which could help to grow trade relations between the two countries by 2.5 billion dollars.
Furthermore, Jokpeme noted that this visit represents the continuation of a pattern that was established in the immediate aftermath of the conclusion of nuclear negotiations, when Germany was the first major European country to send a delegation to Iran to establish the groundwork for future trade expansions. But while these visits and their resulting deals may be regarded by critics as excessive eagerness on the part of German officials and business leaders, it is also true that Germany has raised some of those issues that make other would-be investors more wary of traveling to Iran or announcing the resumption of business dealings with it.
Specifically, Tru News reports that Gabriel said prior to his trip that Iran and Germany would only be able to “normalize” relations once Iran had recognized Israel’s right to exist and halted what he described as Iran’s “decisive role” in the Syrian Civil War. According to Jokpeme, this commentary elicited anger from Iranian officials, including the allegedly moderate Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who declared that no foreign country would be permitted to set conditions for improved relations with the Islamic Republic.
Yet the Siemens deal has apparently gone forward despite this rejection of Gabriel’s conditions. And there is no indication that the other nine expected deals have been cancelled on that basis, either. Indeed, it is not clear whether the fulfillment of these deals would be considered sufficient to fulfill Garbiel’s criteria for “normalized relations.” That is to say, it is possible that the German government will be willing to take incremental steps toward such normalization, giving credit to Iran for certain cooperative gestures while looking the other way on the ongoing rejection of the sorts of principles Gabriel outlined.
Such an approach would arguably be quite similar to that for which the Obama administration has been criticized in the US. On Saturday, a Boston Herald editorial criticized the White House for just this sort of behavior, suggesting that there has been a steady unveiling of secret concessions that were previously offered to the Islamic Republic by the US president. Most recently, the editorial notes, it was reported that the administration had apparently arranged for UN sanctions to be lifted in line with US sanctions, even though the former were supposed to continue for eight years after the conclusion of nuclear negotiations.
The article concludes that the White House essentially gave Iran “bonus points,” in violation of the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, simply because Iran had lived up to its minimum requirements under that agreement. It might also be said that this revelation directly contradicts the months-long Iranian talking points that accuse the West of violating the “spirit” of the JCPOA in order to make it more difficult for Iran to reintegrate into the global financial system and accept European investors.
The Obama administration has previously come under fire for allegedly going too far in implementation of the JCPOA, not only telling European businesses that trade with Iran is now legally permissible but also actively promoting such trade. The Boston Herald editorial now suggests that more than simply abiding by the spirit of the JCPOA, the White House actually violated the deal in Iran’s favor. Yet this has not stopped the Islamic Republic from criticizing the US and blaming foreign entities for the slow progress of Iran’s recovery from sanctions.
Meanwhile, even in the midst of tough talk on some of Iran’s non-economic issues, important European entities appear to have thrown their weight behind Iran’s argument. The reports surrounding the Siemens deal generally indicated that the German government is expected to follow up Gabriel’s Iran visit by exerting pressure on the US to encourage it to lift some of the last remaining restrictions on foreign investment in the Islamic Republic.
And Germany is far from being alone in its eagerness to help facilitate Iran’s recovery. For instance, Hellenic Shipping News reported on Monday that British companies had begun receiving shipments of crude oil and natural gas condensates for the first time since the imposition of sanctions. According to the National Iranian Oil Company, one million barrels of condensates had been delivered to BP, while an unnamed second company received an unknown quantity of crude.