Iranian Economic Plans Look More Plausible in Light of Foreign Investment

On Tuesday, UPI reported that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which includes such adversaries of Tehran as Saudi Arabia, had acknowledged the extent of Iran’s planning for the revival of its economy. A monthly OPEC newsletter declared that Iran had drawn up plans for about 50 oil and gas development projects valued at a total of 185 billion dollars, and that it planned to begin implementing these late this year or early in 2016.

While it remains unclear whether Iran will truly have the capital to execute all of these projects in the planned timeframe, the viability of such projects has been helped along by numerous expressions of investor interest from European countries and Europe-based businesses.

Iran is reportedly in the process of drawing up a new template for oil contracts, which it will present to European investors at an oil conference in London in December. And this comes on the heels of several trade delegations and visits by European officials to Tehran to discuss investment prospects.

Some potential investors have reportedly held back from such talks out of fear that they may become subject to new sanctions enforcement by the US government in the event that the nuclear agreement does not proceed to implementation or the US Congress takes other measures to penalize Iran and its partners. But now that President Obama has secured veto-proof support for his agreement in the Senate, some of this wariness is likely to evaporate.

What’s more, some governments and investors seem to have been virtually unaffected by lingering uncertainties. Even before the 34 US senators had declared support for the deal, Austrian President Heinz Fischer made plans to visit Tehran in the coming week, according to Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency.

The trip is only one of many visits by European officials, beginning with German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel just days after the signing of the nuclear agreement. But Fischer will be the first such visit by a European head of state.

The influx of unfrozen assets and the promise of foreign investment have also helped to spur Iran’s own foreign investment, which promises to extend economic and perhaps also political influence, as well as providing it with more secure access to resources and possibly increasing its ability to stand up to economic penalties and restrictions in the future.

Dispatch News Desk reported on Tuesday that Iran was in talks to purchase 500,000 hectares of land in Ukraine for agricultural development and food security, adding to a smaller-scale project already in place in Kazakhstan. There is also potential for Iranian agricultural deals in Ghana and Brazil.

But Dispatch also notes that the problems that these projects seek to alleviate are not only a result of economic sanctions. Rather, government mismanagement of Iranian agricultural lands has contributed to environmental damage and poor yields. This suggests that the success of new development projects depends not only on an influx of capital and foreign investment but also on the question of whether Iran’s policies stand to substantially change in the midst of those new circumstances.