Obama’s Snap-Back Fantasy
Big business lines up to
get into Iran after sanctions go away.
By WSJ Editorial Board
Wall Street Journal
June 16, 2015
President Barack Obama likes to say that sanctions on Iran can be
“snapped back” into place should Tehran violate any nuclear deal it might
sign. Mark that down as another Administration fantasy.
The latest evidence of growing
business interest in the Islamic Republic came at this year’s World National
Oil Companies Congress, held in London, where a full day of briefings on Monday
was devoted to exploring energy-industry opportunities after sanctions vanish. Chevron,
Energy and Singapore’s Yug-Neftegaz were among the industry players
with delegates at the Iran briefings.
“We think that the
enthusiasm is there,” Elham Hassanzadeh, the main workshop presenter, said in
an interview with us. “And the fact that the whole sanctions structure is
weakened is true, because everybody’s just ready that once it really crumbles
to go back to the country and put down the money.”
Ms. Hassanzadeh is the
managing director of Energy Pioneers, a consultancy with offices in Oxford and
Tehran. She said her Iranian-government contacts have received “a great deal
of interest” from Western businesses and cited the “sheer volume of
companies talking” to the Iranians. “It’s more like flirting. So it’s
good. They’re getting to know each other.”
The flirtation began almost
immediately after the interim nuclear agreement was signed in Geneva in November
2013. Two months later, the European Union suspended its ban on insuring
shipments of Iranian oil. Around the same time executives from Shell, Italy’s
Eni and Austria’s OMV, among other European energy giants, met with Iran’s
oil minister in Vienna.
Interest goes beyond the
energy industry. Representatives from Airbus, Peugeot
Générale and BNP
Paribas visited Iran in February 2014. London hosted the first
Europe-Iran Forum last October, allowing major Western businesses—among them
the global law firm Dentons Europe, management-consultancy FTI, PR firm WPP,
and the South African telecom MTN—to meet potential post-sanctions
The Iranians and their Western
business suitors have also developed a trade-promotion infrastructure. The
British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce is headed by Lord Lamont of Lerwick, a Tory
life peer and Chancellor in the John Major government who is an avid proponent
of diplomatic rapprochement.
Mr. Obama may imagine that all
this economic activity will come to a halt at the first sign that Iran is
violating a nuclear deal. The business community is clearly betting otherwise.