The record of the last few months shows that it is far harder to unwind financial sanctions than to impose them.
George Kleinfeld, a sanctions expert at the law firm Clifford Chance, told the Zurich conference that there remains a “primal fear” of Iran on the part of Western banks because of “years of hyperactive enforcement” of sanctions by the US government.
In addition, there is uncertainty surrounding the future of sanctions because of US presidential elections.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has called the JCPOA “incompetent” and “disgusting,” while Hillary Clinton, his likely Democratic opponent, has urged stringent actions to counter other Iranian policies disliked by the United States.
Concerns are growing among Iranians who want a better relationship with the United States and Europe that without more tangible economic benefits, support for the Iran deal — and for the government of President Hassan Rouhani — will wane.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who allowed the JCPOA to go forward, has taken an increasingly hostile tone toward Washington in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Rouhani’s predecessor, Ahmadinejad, has been hinting that he will try to run again when Rouhani seeks re-election in 2017.
Kleinfeld said it was up to European countries to defend their economic interests and make clear that they would not accept new sanctions or a snapback of old US secondary sanctions if Iran continues to abide by its nuclear obligations.
“Where are the European voices saying there is no way we will allow Congress to reimpose sanctions?” Kleinfeld asked.