This situation has apparently made it important to the White House that circumstances be established that would make it more difficult for any subsequent administration to change course from what has been established by the JCPOA. As per the Wall Street Journal report, these prospective circumstances mostly relate to the business environment between Iran and the West. The need to solidify the JCPOA’s long-term viability is an apparent motivator behind the White House’s extensive efforts to communicate with European businesses regarding the sorts of investments and joint ventures that will be permitted with Iranian entities.
These communications have drawn scrutiny from opponents of the Obama administration’s plans, and various members of the US Congress have accused Secretary of State John Kerry of going too far and actually advocating for foreign investments in Iran. This type of criticism was repeated once again in The Tower on Friday, which noted that Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and of the president’s own party, had accused the Obama administration of attempting to “act as the chamber of commerce for Tehran.”
Coons has also repeatedly pushed back against the notion that the US isn’t doing enough to facilitate Iran’s economic recovery under the JCPOA. This talking point has been advanced by leading Iranian officials like Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Their expectation of a greater positive impact from sanctions relief may imperil Iran’s long-term commitment to the nuclear agreement, and this has seemingly spurred the Obama administration to pursue a controversial goal of making sure that Iran is satisfied with its outcomes, regardless of the possible shortcomings in Iran’s own policies and behavior.
“It is Iran’s challenge to demonstrate that their economy is transparent enough, legitimate enough, secure enough, to attract foreign investment,” Coons said. Other critics have emphasized that Iran has taken no steps to reassure would-be foreign investors and international banking institutions that the Islamic Republic has initiated safeguards against the well-known danger of money laundering and misappropriation.
Although the Obama administration is apparently less inclined than its critics to put pressure on Tehran over such matters, this is not to say that the White House is not at all sensitive to the ongoing threats and problems associated with Iran’s support of terrorism and its propensity for associated financial crimes. After all, the Wall Street Journal report acknowledges that administration officials frequently must explain to business leaders that they cannot approve very large-scale deals. This suggests that the interest in the Iranian market is actually greater than that which the White House has been accused of encouraging and facilitating.
But even if the White House holds back some portion of that interest, this effect will presumably much greater in the face of the more hardline attitudes of the US Congress and other staunch critics of the Iranian regime. And the advocacy coming from these individuals and groups shows no sign of slowing down as the Islamic Republic continually fails to provide reassurance regarding the prospects for its long-term behavior and its use of unfrozen assets.
The underlying goals of the JCPOA were brought back into sharp focus by this critics when the media recently picked up on information from last December’s final report by the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Iran’s past nuclear work. It is now more widely known that the most recent investigation of the Parchin military base uncovered tiny traces of uranium, which apparently escaped Iranian efforts to demolish and sanitize areas of the site where nuclear-related work had taken place in the past.
Some of the latest commentary on the IAEA report indicates that the Obama administration regarded the uranium particles as proof of what it had already known about Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon prior to 2003. But on Friday the Washington Free Beacon reported that some lawmakers regarded this new revelation as evidence of a lack of objectivity in the latest IAEA investigations, and a conspiracy to sweep Iranian malfeasance under the rug.
Those lawmakers allege that the Parchin uranium particles are signs that the Iranian nuclear program was possibly larger than previously suspected, and certainly larger than Tehran had ever let on. As well as denying that Iran had ever sought to obtain a nuclear weapon, Iranian officials have continually insisted that Parchin was not the site of nuclear-related work. Barring the possibility that the uranium uncovered by the IAEA was contamination from elsewhere, the findings clearly contradict Iran’s own claims. And for some critics of the regime, this is potential grounds for reopening the investigation into the past nuclear dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, which was closed by the IAEA investigation in order to clear the way for the nuclear deal.
Reopening that investigation would presumably invalidate the JCPOA, and even if this does not happen, the rising level of scrutiny serves to cast renewed doubt on the longevity of the nuclear deal and also on the prospects for a stable investment environment. The new reports on Parchin are only one category of media stories that add fuel to the criticism of White House policy and prospective business deals. And at the same time that members of Congress are trying to actively undermine those prospects, the resulting uncertainty is helping to prevent Iran from securing new affiliations, thereby making the Iranian market comparatively less attractive.
The Wall Street Journal points out, for instance, that Iran is engaged in a bid for membership in the World Trade Organization, but that that membership would need to be secured by consensus, and there are several member states that remain committed to opposing such a risk. And as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reported on Friday, the same is true of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Despite Iran’s close partnership with Russia and the growth of its business relations in the East, the SCO has not responded favorably to Russia’s sponsorship of the Islamic Republic. The group’s Chinese leaders and other member states continue to view the situation as being too politically volatile, and are reportedly resistant to the anti-Western implications of accepting Iran as a full member.
A major gathering of Iranians and their international supporters in Paris on July 9, dubbed “Free Iran,” plans to put forward solutions to the various crises surrounding Iran.