- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covers international finance. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States and other world powers. Whether the agreement is working depends on who you ask.
To mark the day, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, released dueling statements with opposite takes on the pact. Lew insists the deal, meant to give Iran some economic relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, is working. Zarif begs to differ.
“Iran has benefited economically under the deal, significantly increasing its oil sales, opening more than 300 new bank accounts with foreign banks, negotiating billions of dollars of new lines of credit, and seeing new planned foreign direct investment increase by more than $3 billion,” Lew said in a statement Thursday morning, adopting an oddly cheerleading role for Iran’s benefits from the deal.
Zarif took to Twitter to dispute Lew’s claims, implying that Washington is not living up to the terms of the agreement. He accused the United States of “short-sighted bragging” and “lackluster implementation of obligations.”
On Thursday in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted Iran was “living up to its part of this bargain and obligation,” a sentiment the International Atomic Energy Agency agrees with. But Kerry admitted plenty of companies will still find challenges doing business there.
“Nobody pretends that some of the challenges we have with Iran have somehow been wiped away. This program was about a nuclear track and about a nuclear program,” Mr. Kerry said.
Kerry’s comments follow Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s warning Wednesday that Iran would pull back from the deal if the other parties, including the United States, U.K., France, Germany, Russia, and China, did not live up to their promise to ease economic sanctions. Iranian officials have complained that the United States is deliberately discouraging companies from doing business there, a charge the White House denies. Kerry is actively encouraging European banks to get in the Iran business.
But House Republicans have made clear their opposition to American firms doing business with Iran. They recently passed a series of bills prohibiting a deal between Chicago-based Boeing and Tehran, worth up to $25 billion. The GOP is also pushing multiple Iran sanctions bills before the summer recess, something Democrats are refusing to support.
The Treasury Department also has yet to approve an Iranian deal with Boeing’s rival Airbus, which reached a $27 billion agreement in January to sell Tehran 118 aircraft.
European businesses have been hesitant to resume dealing with Iran, leery of running afoul of U.S. sanctions over human rights abuses and terrorism. And international banks have been wary of stepping into the regulatory minefield the Treasury Department has laid around Tehran. There are sanctions still in place, like prohibitions on using dollars in trade with the country, that any potential business partner will have to wrestle with.
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