Banking Sanctions take Center Stage

By Mohammad Ali Shabani, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Banking Sanctions take Center Stage as Iranian Rhetoric Toughens

All is not well in post-sanctions Iran. In his first Nowruz message since the signing and implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), President Hassan Rouhani was muted about the sanctions relief.

He only used the word “sanctions” twice, and when he did, he merely broadly stated, “Banking, financial, monetary, oil, gas, petrochemical, insurance and transportation sanctions … have been lifted. Conditions for the economic activities of our people have gotten greater and greater.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is of a different mindset. In his Nowruz speech, in which he referred to “sanctions” at least 28 times, Khamenei stated, “The Americans have said that they would lift sanctions, and they have actually done so on paper, but through other ways and methods, they are acting in a way that the result of sanctions repeal will not be witnessed at all.”

Normalization of Iran’s trade with the world is of utmost importance to the Iranian leadership for multiple reasons. For Rouhani and his moderate camp, political fortunes are greatly tied to the JCPOA having a tangible impact on the lives of ordinary Iranians.

Indeed, for those seeking a more open Iran, it is greatly unfortunate that the lifting of banking and financial sanctions has done little to remove fears about doing business with Iran. If you don’t believe the Iranian insiders who tell Al-Monitor that few to none of the major players yet dare go near Iran, listen to Ayatollah Khamenei, who usually avoids going into detail.

“Today, in all Western countries and in all those countries that are under their influence, our banking transactions have been blocked. We have a problem bringing our wealth — which has been kept in their banks — back to the country. We have a problem conducting different financial transactions that require the assistance of banks. … The US Department of the Treasury acts in a way … that big companies, agencies and banks do not dare to approach the Islamic Republic and have business transactions with it.”

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