The Forum for Partners in Iran's Marketplace

June 2021, No. 97


Ban on Oil Export,
CBI the Most Important Sanctions!

Inside Iran, the important issue is that the Parliament is in the hands of JCPOA opponents.

Sina Azodi, an international relations researcher at the Atlantic Council, says that if the JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is to be revived, the Saudi and Israeli lobbies will try to obstruct it, and that the Republican-influenced Congress will try to change the US policy toward Iran by throwing obstacles in the way of the Iran Nuclear Agreement and the lifting of sanctions. According to Azodi, if Iran-US relations improve, China and Russia will also suffer, but only in the case of the JCPOA both sides believe in its full implementation.

According to the expert, the ban on oil exports and restricting the overseas operations of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) are the most important sanctions in the priority of being lifted.  According to him, the lifting of these sanctions will even make it easier for Iran to withdraw its frozen assets, for example in South Korea. He says that in the current situation, actions such as provocative slogans that cannot be implemented but are used in the West to say that sanctions should remain in place must be avoided. 

If Biden wants to return to the JCPOA, what problems would he face politically inside the United States?

The most important issue in the United States is the numerous lobbies of Saudi Arabia and Israel that will try hard to influence the US foreign policy; They did the same thing when the Iran Nuclear Agreement was signed. If the JCPOA is to be revived, they will try to block its progress and implementation. Another problem with lifting the sanctions in the US is the Congress, which is heavily influenced by Republicans; Because now the Democratic government is in power. In my opinion, the Republican representatives are trying to change the US policy towards Iran and to block the way for the JCPOA and the lifting of sanctions, and even if negotiations are to take place, it will fail; As they did before. An example was a letter sent to Iran by members of the US Congress during the Obama administration stating that Tehran should not negotiate with Obama. 

One way is to take the negotiations seriously and consider that there is not much time.

What problems might there be with other international actors, including Europe, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and even China and Russia, in lifting the sanctions on Iran?

In any case, Saudi Arabia and Israel will not like the United States to return to the JCPOA. They have said so openly, and even the Israeli government calls the JCPOA a historic blunder. Saudi Arabia will certainly not benefit from improving US-Iranian relations. In any case, Europe is committed to the JCPOA and wants to implement it, but I think the position that France has taken towards the nuclear negotiations has been a tougher one, and it has even tried to marginalize the JCPOA.

But in the case of the European Union, as the German foreign minister has said, there seems to be an interest in signing new agreements with Iran. In the case of China and Russia, it can be said that they are generally committed to the JCPOA and are interested in implementing it, but in my opinion, China and Russia will not benefit from the improvement of Iran-US relations; Because now Iran needs both Russia and China, and if Iran-US relations improve, they will suffer. But if we talk only about the JCPOA both China and Russia believe that the agreement should be fully implemented. 

What problems might arise for Biden from within Iran to lift the sanctions?

Inside Iran, the important issue is that the Parliament is in the hands of JCPOA opponents. Just recently, they passed a law to increase enrichment to 20 percent and set to suspend the implementation of the Additional Protocol, which even President Rouhani openly expressed his opposition. In general, there are groups inside and outside Iran that are hurt by the improvement of Iran-US relations and will try to put the brakes on this process.

Another issue is that, apart from the existence of JCPOA opponents, there is generally no buyer for new negotiations with Washington, and it requires a lot of political capital for the Iranian government to want to negotiate with the US again. The government has little time and much political capital; Because the US government has severely damaged Irans view of negotiations since Trump took office. 

Given the many problems that exist in lifting the sanctions and the unfavorable economic conditions in Iran, why should Biden have an incentive to return to the JCPOA?

The view held by Obama, and Biden is that if Iran wants to expand its nuclear program, one of the US allies in the region, especially Israel, may want to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities; Iran would respond and this could result in outbreak of a regional war that could hurt all sides and jeopardize the interests of everyone, including the United States. So I think the US government has high motivation to stop a regional war. Before the JCPOA, many US allies, especially Saudi Arabia, called on Obama to attack Iran and block its nuclear facilities.

Israel, on the other hand, threatened it would not sit idle for Iran to expand its nuclear program. So the motivation is high. Even at the time of Trump the news of which has been released, the administration advisers had told him that the outcome of an attack on Iran would be unclear and no one knows what would happen; thus they tried to dissuade Trump from attacking. The overall goal of US administrations whether Trump or Biden is to emerge from the endless wars in the Middle East and that they would have to remain in the region if they engage in a conflict with Iran. 

Which sanctions are key and important for Iran and should be lifted sooner?

They are exactly oil exports and the CBI; so that Iran can sell its oil and receive its money easily. In my opinion, this is the most important issue. As long as Iran cannot easily sell its oil to meet the foreign exchange needs of the country no problem will be solved and nothing is as important as that. Sanctions on shipping, steel, etc. are important, but not so much that Iran cannot sell its oil legally and without disruption and receive its money easily. The lifting of these sanctions will even make it easier for Iran to withdraw its blocked assets, for example in South Korea. 

How can Iran pave the way for the lifting of sanctions?

One way is to take the negotiations seriously and consider that there is not much time. They should try to focus foreign policy on moving the negotiations forward quickly. On the other hand, actions that give others an excuse not to lift the sanctions should not be taken. These measures have a wide range. Provocative rhetoric that are just slogans and cannot be implemented at all; but in the West it is used to say that negotiations with Iran will not work, Iran is dangerous and sanctions must remain in place. In my opinion, any action that opens the hands of groups or individuals not to lift the sanctions is wrong.

During the course of signing of the JCPOA a number of provocative actions took place by certain groups, but the right decisions of the Rouhani administration did not allow the implementation of the Iran deal to be disrupted as long as Obama was in office. Bidens victory certainly dealt a tactical blow to groups that want to put more pressure on Iran, but they can regroup, coordinate, and increase pressure. So both the Iranian government and the US administration need to focus on the negotiations and take the necessary steps before they want to coordinate their actions and increase the pressure so that they can implement the JCPOA. Both parties must return to full implementation of their commitment in order to move the work forward. 

How difficult can the non-approval of the FATF in Iran be in the way of lifting the sanctions?

Very difficult! Because if Iran does not approach the international standard in terms of banking standards, banks will try to avoid working with Iran; Because they do not want the name of their bank or financial institution to interact with a place that has not taken the necessary steps to launder money. So even if the sanctions are lifted, the banks will try not to deal with Iran at all because they do not want to damage their record and credit. But if anti-money laundering bills are passed in Iran, it will be very easy for banks to deal with Iran. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things that Iran must do so that no one can bring excuses that Iranian standards are not good enough to combat money laundering.


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  June 2021
No. 97