Navid Nasr
Global security, Politics

Iran and the End of the Sanctions Regime: Hope, Change and More of the Same

On Saturday, January 16th, the economic sanctions that had been imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran by the U.S., and by other countries at the behest of the U.S. since 1979 (and broadened and expanded in 1995 and 2006) were finally lifted... sort of.
19 January 2016

The end of the sanctions regime came about after IAEA inspectors determined that Iran had fulfilled its promise and dismantled "large sections" of its nuclear energy program. In other words, anything that could even remotely resemble the beginnings of nuclear weapons no longer exists, if it ever did.

So bottom line, what does this mean for Iran and its relations with the West?

●     The EU is lifting restrictions on trade, shipping and insurance in full

●     The US is suspending, not terminating, its nuclear-related sanctions; crucially, Iran can now reconnect to the global banking system

●     The UN is lifting sanctions related to defense and nuclear technology sales, as well as an asset freeze on key individuals and companies

●     Nearly $100bn (£70bn) of Iranian assets are being unlocked

●     Iran is expected to increase its daily export of 1.1m barrels of crude oil by 500,000 shortly, and a further 500,000 thereafter

●     Iran is reportedly poised to buy 114 new passenger planes from the Airbus consortium

Wonderful news right? For most residents of the world yes, but not necessarily for the woefully, deliberately misinformed citizenry of the U.S. or their "leadership" class. And let's not gloss over the wonderfully "nuanced" take of the Perrzhan gusano exile community in "Tehrangeles":

“The reality is, really soon they’re going to realize this puts money in the hands of a state of a sponsor of terrorism,” said Farahanipour, president of the West L.A. Chamber of Commerce. “This deal does not give any benefit to Iranian people; the only benefit comes to the regime.”

Farahanipour said he was also concerned with the sanctions no longer on the negotiating table, Iran would have no incentive to improve free speech and human rights conditions.

Charming, absolutely charming. You keep it classy, Vestvood!

What's really interesting, however, are the subdued reactions coming from the people of Iran. Many ordinary people, not just "hardliners," are wondering if too much was given away for the sake of this deal. Others are curious as to when or if the lifting of the sanctions will result in any kind of notable improvement in their purchasing power, their access to goods and services, the value of their currency, and just their daily lives in general.

Enthusiasm should also be tempered by the fact that recently imposed travel restrictions on Iranian Americans were not removed under this agreement and that mere hours after this deal was announced the Treasury Department imposed a brand new series of sanctions targeting Iran for a conventional ballistic missile test that it conducted back in October.

It's probably too soon to determine exactly what the outcome of all this will be but I definitely believe that a healthy skepticism is required here and to that end, Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich comes pretty close to hitting the nail on the head here:

There is no doubt that the primary goal of the United States is to install a Washington friendly compliant regime in Iran. But what if it fails? Has Washington spent billions of dollars to undermine and destroy the Iranian revolution, decades in demonizing the people only to change its mind? Isn’t this the same scenario we hoped would be the outcome of the end of the Cold War only to learn that Washington continued a covert war against Russia?