Negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue continue between the 5+1 Group and Iran. There is room for optimism in spite of strained talks. A final agreement should be reached before the end of July 2014.
A new round of technical discussions between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the member-states of the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) took place in New York from May 5th to 9th. The next talks are meant to take place in Vienna on May 13th with an target date for a final agreement before July 20th 2014. A self-confident Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared that “an agreement is within reach in the coming months”.
Business groups are already on the starting block
US companies are pretty confident as well and are already getting on the starting line. According the French daily Le Figaro in its May 3 issue, Chrysler Corp and Cisco are paving the way and have already made repeated contacts in Tehran. While Washington has officially requested US companies not to rush until an agreement is reached, the American majors have effectively been allowed to convey their offers to the Iranian Government via diplomatic channels. Indeed in these strained times all the Western groups are in a frenzy to access the 75 million consumer market. At this point the White House has already approved Boeing’s delivery of spare parts to an ageing Iranian fleet. And the oil companies are not behindhand. 600 foreign companies attended the May 6th to 9th Iran Oil Show 2014 compared to 193 a year before.
European groups are eager as well to get a hold on part of the country’s bounty and do not want to let US companies take the lion’s share. France’s Peugeot Group, under the obligation to leave Iran in 2012 after new sanctions were put into force, wants to resume its cooperation with its long-standing partner Irankhodro . In May this year Peugeot’s CEO Maxime Picat went to Tehran to negotiate the brand return to Iran. Yet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius keeps reining in the zeal of the French business community ; according to him “it is still premature to go to Iran to do business – no one knows for sure if a deal is going to be reached”. A note of caution which antagonizes the French major business players while their US and British competitors take over rapidly in this frenzied race.
Hassan Rouhani puts his own house in order: the case of Hassan Afrashtehpour
These all out negotiations put the Iranian President in a strong position and allow him to consolidate the economy while at the same time settling accounts with his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad. In February 2014 Hassan Rouhani managed to get back 14 billion US dollars which had been embezzled by Rezza Zarrab, a high-powered Iranian crook. The Bonanza was stashed away in Turkey. The Iranian government subjected the Turkish-Iranian agreement on gas to prior refunding of the money and it won the game. According the February 18th issue of the Turkish newspaper Yurt “the Iranians requested that Turkish officials help transfer back to Iran the assets belonging to Zarrab and his partners. Babak Zanjani, an Iranian businessman and Zarrab’s partner, was managing the Iranian funds deposited in Turkey”. The two con artists were arrested in Tehran in December 2013 in connection with the guerrilla warfare being waged between the different clans within the Iranian regime. It appears that up to when Hassan Rouhani came to power, Zarrab and Zanjani had benefited from the benevolence of Iranian authorities. It is not the first case of finger pointing at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Already in 2011, an advisor to the former President had been accused in the Saderat Bank 1.9 billion US Dollars embezzlement scandal.
So it goes with Hassan Afrashtehpour, former managing director of the Tejarat Aria Gostar Iranian Navid Co sugar trading company. Hassan Afrashtehpour appears to have constantly benefited from official benevolence despite a troubled past. That is the Saderat Bank embezzlement as well as illegal imports of oil, food and mobile phones despite the embargo. With the sanctions coming to an end and the opening of the Iranian market one can think that such abusive practices are going to be on the wane.
Thus the 5+1 Group needs to come to some sort of agreement. In order for the western world to jump-start its economy. For Iran to bring to an end the sanctions, its resistance economy and the corruption that comes with it. Needless to say that an agreement will be reached.