• 10 August 2016
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Sanctions, Uncategorized

President Rouhani won the presidency of his country under a campaign which promised to improve Iran’s economy and increase the standard of living of its people. This promise was grounded in another promise, to negotiate a deal with the United States which would end a decade’s worth of economic sanctions; as a result the fate of the Rouhani administration is intertwined with Iran’s economy, one of the primary determinants of whether he will be reelected. With elections scheduled for May 2017, the future of Iran’s domestic politics, and in turn the possibility of improved relations with the U.S. rests on whether Iran will experience tangible economic growth within the next eight months.

The absence of foreign investment has become a focal point for domestic opponents of the Rouhani administration, such as anti-deal spokesperson for the hardline-Committee to Protect Iran’s Interest Alireza Mataji who has recently remarked that “The deal was clinched without Iran receiving any advantage, or even without the other party making any commitment to lift the sanctions,” in reference to the lack of foreign investment in Iran’s economy. A recent example of sanctions relief shortcoming was Secretary Kerry’s announcement in April that Iran has only acquired less than $3 billion of its estimated $55 billion in offshore assets unfrozen by the agreement. And though Iran has obtained more since April, severe obstacles still exist as indicated by President Rouhani’s recent comment that “Iran still cannot access its foreign assets, although it is able to export more oil and access the international banking system.”

While the U.S. has abided by its commitments to waive nuclear-related sanctions, remaining sanctions and in particular sanctions on the use of the U.S. dollar have limited financing options for the many corporations interested in doing business with Iran. Iran has signed trade agreements with Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Germany, but banks have shied away from providing the funding which provides the crucial difference between a financial agreement in principle and a financial deal in practice, as a variety of non-U.S. trade deals are ultimately made in U.S. dollars.

Another reason for Iran’s continued economic malaise is Europe’s fears that sanctions that were lifted by the JCPOA could be reinstituted by the U.S. at some later point. This has persisted despite the Department of State’s recent efforts to restore confidence in European corporations interested in legitimate trade with Iran.

To make matters worse, hawks in the U.S. Congress have threatened to sabotage trade with Iran that was made permissible under the terms of the nuclear deal. The U.S. has committed itself under the terms of the JCPOA to lift restrictions on sales of commercial aircraft to Iran to restore its decades-old commercial fleet. Instead, hawks in Congress have authored several bills aimed at blocking a 25 billion dollar sale between Boeing and Iran Air. While the House has passed such legislation, it is unlikely to clear the Senate. But the effort alone provides further anxiety for companies considering whether to deal with Iran and provides fodder for hardliners in Iran to attack the Rouhani administration.

The Iranian economy has nevertheless improved in measurable ways since the sanctions were lifted, primarily the result of Iran’s return to the oil and gas markets. The Iranian oil industry has worked tirelessly in order to regain market share lost since 2011 and has regained 80% of its former share according to the National Iranian Oil Company. This has driven a sharp rise in Iran’s expected GDP growth for 2016, between 4% and 5.5% currently as opposed to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) earlier prediction of 1.3% growth prior to sanctions being lifted. However even the oil front has proven to not be as promising as expected. While the Ahmadinejad administration was able to weather U.S. sanctions due to record high oil prices, Rouhani has not been as fortunate with oil prices>reaching a twelve year low of under $30 a barrel.

However, because the growth is concentrated in Iran’s oil and gas industry, it has not put a dent in Iran’s chronic 24% youth and 11% general unemployment rate.  This could prove to become the Rouhani administration’s Achilles heel as the unemployment rate is the primary measure, aside from the price of consumer goods, by which many will gauge the success and ultimate value of the nuclear deal.

The current level of expected growth, coupled with the administration’s success in taming inflation – which has dropped to single digits for the first time in 25 years – will eventually increase the standard of living for Iranians who are employed. However, it is unclear whether the government can make additional moves to ensure the millions of unemployed and underemployed Iranians receive the full benefit of the recovery. For that to happen, Iran will need to see more gains in reconnecting to the global economy.

The Rouhani administration’s ability to lift sanctions in return for severely downscaling Iran’s nuclear program has proven to be more successful in some areas of the economy than others. Overall, Iranians appear to still be in favor of the deal, although the general level of the approval has sharply dropped as a result of the aforementioned difficulties. Hardliners in Iran will without a doubt use this to their advantage during Iran’s campaign season, which will carry more weight if the status quo persists. The U.S. ought to lay out a plan to further facilitate sanctions relief; opting for inaction would be a boon for Iranian hardliners, increasing the likelihood that an anti-diplomacy, anti-deal administration takes hold in next year’s elections.

Posted By NIAC

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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