This point of contact between Israel and Germany came after Steinmeier met with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi on Tuesday to discuss the expansion of diplomatic and trade relations. Such meetings have become fairly commonplace in the two months since the signing of the nuclear deal, with the Foreign Ministers of Britain and France, as well as the president of Austria heading delegations to the Islamic Republic aimed at taking advantage of the imminent opening of its markets.
Many European businesses have supported the rush to investment, although some have demonstrated notable caution, either out of concern that they may still be targeted by US-led sanctions or out of fear of the public relations consequences of doing business with a regime that continues to sponsor terrorism and commit regular human rights violations.
Israel and other enemies of the Iranian regime are concerned about the nuclear deal’s impact on the expansion of Iranian power and legitimacy in the world, as well as the effects of unfrozen assets and additional revenue for Tehran. The implementation of the deal is expected to release between 50 and 150 billion dollars to the regime, and even the Obama administration has acknowledged that a portion of this is likely to be channeled into Iran’s illicit activities, including its terrorist networks.
The European push for investment in Iran only adds to opponents’ concerns about this immediate cash windfall.
What’s more, Iran is also expanding is influence beyond Europe, in collaboration with powers whose interests are often directly opposed to those of the West. This was on display on Tuesday when it was reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country would be seeking out broad-based collaboration with China, implying for instance that the Asian superpower would help the Islamic Republic to resolve regional conflicts in ways that would prove favorable to Iran.
These types of apparent threats have met with little response from the Obama administration, which some critics accuse of actually withdrawing support for moderate rebels in Syria in order to not upset the Iranian regime or negatively affect the chances of a nuclear deal. Consequently, the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, which was expected to fall early in the Syrian Civil War, is now firmly entrenched more than four years later, thanks to continual Iranian support and the recent addition of Russian boots on the ground.
The United States’ refusal to confront Iran’s expansionism there and in other regions, especially Yemen, has led Iran’s Arab adversaries to form a coalition to confront such intrusions on its own. On Wednesday, Reuters profiled the United Arab Emirates’ contributions to this coalition, which has recently expanded its campaign from only aerial bombardment of Iran-backed Yemeni rebels to an actual ground war.
Opponents of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy certainly see these developments as contributing to further instability. But the main focus of most Western attention remains focused on the nuclear issue, and many fear that Iran’s expanded collaboration with Asian powers will significantly contribute to its ability to cheat on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
On Tuesday, an editorial at Investors.com alleged that Zarif’s championing of broader collaboration with China pointed toward the expansion of past Chinese assistance in the nuclear sphere, including through provision of ballistic missiles.
On Wednesday, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi reiterated that Russia would play a similarly supportive role in Iran’s expansion of its nuclear capabilities. Salehi declared that Tehran and Moscow were entering into agreements whereby the latter would provide Iran with assistance in research and development related to its nuclear enrichment centrifuges.
Salehi further pointed out that the planned IR-8 centrifuges would be 20 times faster than those that Iran is currently using. Under the nuclear deal, Iran is barred from enriching uranium beyond 3.6 percent, but it is not barred from developing more advanced centrifuges. These advancements could leave the Islamic Republic in a position to enrich uranium to weapons grade at a much faster rate even if it abides by the nuclear deal until it expires in about 15 years.
Salehi’s statements on Wednesday also referred to Russia as a potential source of raw uranium and a buyer of Iran’s enriched uranium. The two nations have previously collaborated on evasion of US and UN sanctions, and it is feasible that this experience might be applied to evading international monitoring of nuclear transactions, regardless of the veracity of Western claims about the expansion of such monitoring.