In return, Iran was due relief from all nuclear-related sanctions. This was enshrined not only in the JCPOA, but also in UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231, which voided all previous nuclear-related Security Council resolutions against Iran. As such, limitations on Iranian trade, banking and financial transactions were formally lifted and the Iranian people were set to begin benefiting from increased foreign investment and business. But all has not gone well so far.
In the six months since the implementation of the nuclear deal, Iran has accrued important benefits. These gains include the doubling of its petroleum exports, attraction of nearly $3.5 billion in foreign investment, access to as much as $30 billion of its frozen assets, reconnection to the SWIFT network and establishment of banking relations with more than 400 foreign banks.
Nevertheless, Tehran has run into serious issues when it comes to getting major international banks to facilitate the numerous trade and investment agreements it has reached aimed at boosting its economic development.
The problem has been twofold. First, a US ban on dollar clearing for Iran remains in effect, preventing foreign banks wishing to deal with Iran from conducting transactions in US dollars. This has impeded banks’ abilities to facilitate major trade deals and repatriate frozen Iranian assets.
Second, international banks and investors remain hesitant to deal with Iran due to fears that they will run afoul of remaining US sanctions or that new sanctions will be imposed down the road that may nullify their investments.
One senior Iranian official recently told me that the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which oversees the implementation of the sanctions regime, “continues its business at times with even more zeal and sends unsolicited warnings to business partners.” He cited an example of a recent request to a Latin American bank to transfer $25 million for Iran to buy soybeans.