On Monday, Germany became the first country to send a high-ranking official to Iran since the end of the nuclear negotiations. Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel accompanied a number of German business interests and investors, in apparent hopes of restoring Germany’s position as Iran’s largest European business partner.
Next week, France will follow Germany’s example in sending Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to Tehran, a first step toward reviving, according to Reuters, “a long history of commercial, political, and social links with Iran.” Some 80 French firms will be represented by French business lobbying group Medef when they visit Iran in September.
Reuters emphasizes that this eagerness for investment seems to stand in contrast to the particularly hard line that French negotiators maintained in the negotiations that spanned from January of last year to the beginning of last week. But Fabius insisted that recent political history will not adversely affect the pursuit of bilateral economic relations between the two countries.
What’s more, French economic interest in the Iranian market did not by any means vanish during the course of negotiations. French bank BNP Paribas was sentenced to pay a fine of nearly 9 billion dollars in June of last year stemming from its circumvention of sanctions against Iran. In the aftermath, the French parliament considered establishing banking infrastructure that would be insulated from sanctions enforcement, for fear that it would otherwise lose out on the prospect of early entry into the Iranian market.
Considering that even the hardline voice of the French government is not deterred from rushing to invest in Iran, the same can certainly be said of other countries that were either had no personal stake in the nuclear negotiations or were more inclined to offer concessions to Tehran in the interest of securing it.
On Tuesday, The Street contributed a new report to the narrative on Iran’s post-deal enrichment. Its headline proclaimed that in the wake of a broad-based rush to investment among Western countries, “Iran is already gearing up for a 100 billion dollar spending spree” focused on modernization and development of its energy sector.
Critics of the regime insist that these economic indicators ought to be read in context of Iran’s internal politics, and that governments that have been averse to Iran’s activities in the past should be aware of possible consequences of pouring money into its economy. For instance, the Weekly Standard explained on Tuesday that sanctions relief stands to greatly benefit Iran’s hardliners, and particularly the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The article rebuffs Obama administration statements suggesting that because the IRGC benefitted from the imposition of economic sanctions, it would be harmed by their removal. Calling this a simple logical fallacy, the Weekly Standard argues that the empowerment of the IRGC was not due to the sanctions themselves, but to the fact that the regime prioritized the strength of the IRGC and its military adventures abroad above virtually all domestic matters.
If this is correct, the same will obtain in the wake of sanctions relief, except that a large portion of a much more substantial cash windfall will go toward those hardline causes, even if some other portion helps in the development of domestic industries. If this is true, eager investment in Iran by entities like the French government is strictly at odds with their former aversion to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its other destabilizing activities.