British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond made a high-profile trip to Iran to reopen the British Embassy, which had been closed in 2011 after it was attacked by a regime-authorized mob whose “Death to Britain” graffiti is still visible on the walls. Once in Tehran, Hammond felt obligated to utter the kind of foolish platitudes that are doomed to be disappointed — all about how Britain can now engage with Iran on “the very many issues” where they have “shared interests.”

Does Britain have a “shared interest” with Iran in destroying the state of Israel? In prolonging Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon? In propping up Bashar Assad’s murderous rule in Syria? In furthering takeovers by Iranian proxies in Iraq and Yemen? In destabilizing the Sunni kingdoms of the Persian Gulf?

Thought not. As the British would say, Hammond’s talking points were “bollocks” or, to put it more politely, “a load of rubbish.”

But his visit was nevertheless interesting and instructive for what it revealed about the rush that Western companies are making — or not — to secure entry into the soon-to-be-open Iranian market. Iranian officials say they want $185 billion in oil and gas investment by 2020. Quite a bonanza, no? But, in fact, fewer than ten British executives accompanied Hammond on his trip — far smaller than the delegations of French and Italian businessmen that have visited Iran.

One notable no-show was the oil giant BP. Despite BP’s long history of doing business in Iran (it was originally known as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company), it stayed away because its executives fear the impact of unilateral U.S. sanctions. The Financial Times writes that there is still considerable uncertainty “about how U.S. regulators will enforce the sanctions they retain,” even after multilateral sanctions are lifting.

This suggests that congressional rejection of the Iran deal — however unlikely — would not be as empty a gesture as many had thought. Even now, with every indication that the deal will be approved and sanctions will come off, major oil-industry players like BP are wary of entering the Iranian market because they fear a backlash from America. Imagine what would happen if Congress were to reject the deal and insist on maintaining the current level of sanctions: that would definitely put a damper on Iranian plans to cash in on an economic bonanza. A substantial vote against the deal, even if it falls short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, could still send a signal to international markets to be wary of doing business in Iran — and that, in turn, could still enforce a measure of informal sanctions even if formal limits are lifted.

It’s not as good as the current sanctions, even in the diluted form they have taken since nuclear talks began in 2013. But it’s better than simply lifting all limits on Iran’s ability to expand economically and strategically.


+ A A -
You may also like
Share via
Copy link