With just 24 or 48 hours to go (the timing is still unclear) until the new announcement by U.S. President Trump on the fate of the Iran nuclear agreement, Italian Minister of the Economy Padoan announced with great enthusiasm a new multi-billion-dollar agreement with Tehran. On Thursday, the Italian financial institution Invitalia Global Investment signed a framework agreement worth €5 billion with two Iranian banks, the Bank of Industry and the Middle East Bank.
The agreement sets the terms of future individual funding agreements—that is, funds for projects run in Iran by local and Italian companies in the oil, chemical, metallurgical, infrastructure and construction sectors. It is a deal of enormous scope, but it has a fundamental prerequisite: the neutralization of the Trump threat.
The White House last spoke about the issue on Oct. 13, when Trump refused to certify the agreement between Iran and the P5+1, and referred matters to Congress. Now, 90 days on, he is facing another deadline on the same issue.
Sources inside the U.S. administration are dampening speculation about the president’s ambitions, saying that he is inclined to leave everything as it is—that he will not exit the agreement—but at the same time will not certify compliance, and he might extend the existing sanctions.
It would be a compromise decision, thanks to European and Russian efforts. No one wants to go back on this historic deal, especially in light of Tehran’s compliance with the terms to which it agreed two and a half years ago. And even more so in light of the pending economic agreements, comprising billions of euros in deals made by states and businesses, all waiting for the sanctions that are still in effect to be permanently abolished.
The stalemate is preventing President Rouhani from fulfilling his promises of wealth redistribution and an increase in jobs. The words that Trump addressed via Twitter to the Iranians who took to the streets at the turn of the New Year thus ring hollow: a statement of support with no substance, given that he is maintaining the country’s isolation.
Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif was in Brussels for a meeting with E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Mogherini and the representatives of Britain, France and Germany.
They were unanimous. The Iran deal will remain intact, it is working, and, in the words of Mogherini, “it is delivering on its main goal which means keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check and under close surveillance.” For this, she adds, the E.U. is committed to “support the full and effective implementation of the agreement, including to make sure that the lifting of nuclear related sanctions has a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, including benefits for the Iranian people.”
The Foreign Ministers were all in agreement: the French Le Drian (“There is no indication today that could call into doubt Iranian respect of the agreement“), the British Johnson (“I don’t think anybody has so far produced a better alternative”) and the German Gabriel (“we want to protect [the deal] against every possible decision that might undermine it”).
While Russia is also joining the consensus on the global preservation of the agreement, Zarif underlines that Iran has put the brakes on its civilian nuclear program. But Tehran is not a country to clam up in response to accusations, and they are poised to counterattack: If Trump breaks the Iran deal, they will start their nuclear program again. The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) has announced that the country would be able to “accelerate” its uranium enrichment activities at any point.
This is a move that the AEOI \ outlined two days ago before the International Atomic Energy Agency, planned in the event of a breach of the agreement by the U.S. and of Tehran being isolated again.
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