EU Pushes Banks, Businesses to Invest in Iran

State Department Reiterates Assurances US Won't Block Efforts

by Jason Ditz, May 19, 2016

Some four months into the implementation of the sanctions relief in the P5+1 nuclear deal, Iran is still struggling to access its “unfrozen” assets and Western contractors are struggling mightily to get their business deals with Iran going.

Top European diplomats are pushing for European Union business, particularly banks, to start “exploring” deals with Iran, saying they intend to do more to encourage businesses to invest in the country, now that the sanctions are removed.

Banks have been the big stumbling bloc in this, with most of the major banks refusing to have anything to do with Iranian deals, citing fears that the US would punish them. The US State Department reiterated today that this is not the case.

Despite the repeated protestations from the State Department, however, it’s not clear the banks are just being paranoid, as the US Treasury Department has repeatedly bragged about keeping Iran from accessing the international banking system despite the sanctions relief.

From the Treasury Department’s perspective, this is a great way to win points with a Congressional leadership that overwhelmingly opposed the Iran deal in the first place. The State Department, however, is facing growing complaints not just from Iran that this is tantamount to the US violating the deal, but angry statements from EU officials as well.

With potentially upwards of $100 billion in frozen assets to be accessed, Iran is looking for massive deals with contractors to modernize its economy after decades of isolation. This includes improvements to basic infrastructure, their massive oil industry, and civilian airliners.

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