Iran is expected to fulfill a series of obligations under the agreement before receiving the designated relief from economic sanctions, which could release as much as 150 billion dollars to the Iranian economy soon after implementation. Iran’s removal of enriched uranium and dismantling of some of its nuclear infrastructure are not expected to be completed for several months, although Iranian officials have given their own highly optimistic, albeit unsubstantiated estimates.
While implementation is still being discussed and put into effect, opponents of the deal in the West, primarily American legislators, can be expected to continue their attempts to challenge and undermine the deal in hopes of forcing the renegotiation of something better. Such opponents are generally of the opinion that the promised sanctions relief will allow Tehran to channel greater amounts of money and equipment into foreign terrorist organizations and hardline anti-Western organizations like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
On Tuesday, Counter Punch ran an editorial that was highly favorable to the nuclear agreement but pointed out that Adam Szubin, the US Treasury official largely responsible for sanctions against Iran, has promised to work vigorously to maintain and even increase pressure on Iran’s regional intrusions and support for terrorism, even as sanctions against the country’s nuclear program come to be suspended.
But it remains to be seen whether the Obama administration as a whole will actually follow through on these promises. As Iran News Update has pointed out previously, Szubin’s statements are in contrast to those of other administration officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, who has said that the administration would not support congressional efforts to impose sanctions in these non-nuclear areas, for fear that Iran would be able to use it to legally back out of the nuclear deal.
If the sanctions that remain in place on Iran are weakly enforced or not enforced at all, it will further increase the likelihood of large portions of unfrozen assets going directly into the hands of the IRGC and other illicit Iranian agencies, since these hardline groups have controlling interests in a great many Iranian businesses and industries.
The Counter Punch editorial points out, for instance, that the IRGC owns Khatam al-Anbia, the largest construction company in the country and a veritable cash cow. Szubin has indicated that the US many penalize companies who do business with this company, even in spite of the opening of the overall Iranian market. But it remains to be seen whether the administration follows through, and if it does not, contracts with Khatam al-Anbia will deliver wealth into the hands of the IRGC and subsequently to the organization’s foreign arm, the Quds Force.
The mark of this entity has already been spotted on a great many conflicts in the broader Middle East, and it is the deepening of this mark that many opponents of the nuclear deal fear. Opponents in the West are receiving support from Iran’s other traditional rivals and victims, including Saudi Arabia, which has only tentatively accepted the nuclear agreement while also pushing for more direct confrontation of Iranian forces by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Al Arabiya reports that on Tuesday the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister once again reiterated the Arab kingdom’s view that Tehran had been the main cause of the crisis in Yemen, where Iran-backed Shiite rebels ousted the elected president, Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi early this year. And this is only one example of the expanded Iranian influence in the region, which has given pause to many analysts and policymakers in the West.
On Monday, the latest example of this expansion was brought to light when it was reported that Iran, Russia, Syria, and Iraq had all discussed the establishment of an office in Baghdad for mutual sharing of intelligence related to these country’s foreign policy aims. And on Tuesday, Business Insider reported that Moscow was attempting to pressure the US to contribute its own intelligence to this office – a move that could possibly allow US intelligence to be directly used against US interests, which are at odds with Russia and Iran on issues like the rule of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Shiite dominance of the government in Baghdad.
Despite these differences, the possibility exists that the Obama administration will decide to cooperate on some level with the new four-party alliance, given that President Obama has consistently been optimistic about the prospect of better behavior on these countries’ parts within a more open environment.
On Monday, Iran News Update pointed out that Obama had declared his administration’s willingness to work with Iran and Russia to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. But Obama also emphasized that Syria could not return to the “status quo” of Assad’s rule, while President Rouhani said in a speech of his own that the “weakening” of the Damascus government through Assad’s removal would not be an acceptable solution from Tehran’s perspective.