Despite the fact that the US Congress has yet to sign off on the Iranian nuclear deal, Europe appears ready to forge ahead.
Multiple European countries are already laying the groundwork for massive business opportunities in Iran.
And the fear, according to The Wall Street Journal, is that such rapid investment could limit the possibility of crippling sanctions “snapping back” into action if Iran cheats or breaks any of the deal’s commitments.
The “snap-back” clause has been key for proponents of the deal — like President Barack Obama, who remains on the offensive trying to sell the deal to a sceptical Congress and American public.
“You might hear from critics that Iran faces no consequences if it violates this deal. That’s also patently false,” Obama said in a recent White House weekly address.
“If Iran violates this deal, the sanctions we imposed that have helped cripple the Iranian economy — the sanctions that helped make this deal possible — would snap back into place promptly.”
But Switzerland, for example, has already determined that it will officially drop all sanctions against Iran. The sanctions, which had been suspended during the year-and-a-half-long negotiating process, blocked the trade of precious metals and limited the exchange of petroleum and petroleum products.
“The Federal Council (government) wishes today’s steps to be seen as a sign of its support for the implementation of the nuclear agreement and its interest in deepening bilateral relations with Iran,” a Swiss statement said, according to Reuters.
Switzerland said it would re-introduce the sanctions if implementation of the agreement fails. But unlike Switzerland’s more measured response, Italy has already signed a number of high-profile economic deals with Iran that could be significantly harder to roll back should the nuclear deal fail at curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
According to The Journal, the Italian investment bank Mediobanca has signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Economic Ministry.
Additionally, Italian industrial firm Finmeccanica has agreed to develop a $US556 million power plant with Iran’s Ghadir Investment Co, a firm that has been identified as a front company for the Iranian regime by the US Treasury Department.
“The [Finmeccanica] plant deal, inked well before the [nuclear] deal even begins to be implemented, shows that U.S. sanctions can no longer deter global business from signing huge deals in Iran, even with the Supreme Leader’s business empire,” Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies told the WSJ.
There have already been troublesome signs as the deal starts to be implemented. Iranian Major General Qassim Soleimani recently visited Russia in late July and is thought to have met with Russian officials about the ongoing war in Syria.
Soleimani, a US-designated terrorist, has also been spotted on the front lines in Iraq, where he has been playing a major role in commanding Shia militias that have been fighting alongside Iraqi security forces to drive the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) out of the country.
The Shia militias have emerged as the most effective fighting force against ISIS in Iraq, but some say the Shia fighters aren’t much better than the ISIS terrorists they’re trying to expunge. (Others, however, have welcomed the Shia militias as the best option for helping Sunni tribal fighters drive ISIS out of Iraq.)
Soleimani’s trip came about despite his listing on a UN travel ban.
According to The New York Times, Soleimani was first placed on the ban by the UN Security Council in 2007 due to his links to the nuclear and ballistic missile program. He was due to be taken off of the travel ban in eight years because of the Iranian nuclear deal.
His travels despite the ban highlight the difficulties the US may face not only implementing the Iranian deal, but also getting the rest of the world to enforce rules or snactions that are flouted by Tehran.
But more than any other, Switzerland’s move displays evidence of the lack of US teeth on the issue.
A US State Department spokesman warned Swiss companies earlier this week that they are still subject to US sanctions on Iran. But the spokesman also admitted that the US was caught almost entirely off-guard by the Swiss’ move.
“We intend to continue aggressively enforcing those sanctions,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “But as to specifically what these sanctions were that lifted and how they will affect, we’ll have to look into that and get back to you with more detail.”
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