Business in Iran: new opportunities for the West, or a delusion?

 

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Business is in turmoil in Iran

 

Originally published in Canada Free Press

On Friday before holidays, the Obama administration took another step in favor of Iran by removing some of the obstacles on doing business with entities within the country. On the same day, the US Treasury released new rules that specified US wouldn’t sanction foreign companies and individuals doing business with boycotted Iranian entities, provided they maintain only minority interests in the projects.

Almost a year after the signing of the JCPOA, the final nuclear deal, Iran has practically turned into a promised land for European companies, who for long were dreaming to enter its markets. Reports say 16 countries, including the Europeans as well as China and Russia are finding their way into Iran’s markets. Sigmar Gabriel, German Minister of Economy, was probably the most effective one, who took 200 German businessmen with him when he recently visited Tehran.

In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani is welcoming foreign investors to push forward an in-house power struggle against his hardline competitors. It seems both foreign investors and the so called moderates of Iran are in need of each other. Success in their union, however, does not seem to be very handy.

With all the peculiarities that exist in Iran, the question is “will the Europeans’ dream come true?”, “Will president Rouhani embrace an economic boost?”, and “what kind of reality will they both overlook, or try to overlook?”

The facts confirmed by many experts elucidate that Iran’s economy is so sick that a few injections cannot bring it back to life. Since the emergence of the present regime in Iran, this country, with all its wealth and resources, has been a deer hunting ground for the sovereign Ayatollahs. Each has usurped his share of Iran’s wealth, pushing Iranian people below the poverty line.

Political and economic analysts confirm that a giant portion of Iran’s economy today is owned by IRGC, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Treasury has already asked foreign companies to refrain from doing business with the IRGC, which is widely viewed as the most dominant player in Iran’s economy. The US government has sanctioned a number of IRGC companies for their part in funding and arming terrorist groups in neighboring countries, as well as in committing human-rights abuses against Iranian citizens.

The IRGC was founded in the aftermath of the 1979 Revolution as a guardian tasked with defending the “Islamic Republic” against internal and external threats, but it has expanded far beyond its original mandate. Today, the IRGC presides over a vast power structure with influence over almost every aspect of Iranian life.

Iran’s Telecommunication Company and Railways are two major entities controlled by IRGC.  In 2010, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad handed the largest chunk of Iran’s South Pars natural-gas field project on the Persian Gulf’s $21 billion in contracts for drilling, pipelines and platforms to the Revolutionary Guards. Khamenei himself developing close personal ties to IRGC officers, and as Supreme Leader he has consistently surrounded himself with senior IRGC officers.

IRGC fields an army, navy, and air force, while running Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal and irregular warfare operations through its elite Quds Force and proxies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The IRGC has expanded Iran’s underground economy and its own control over it, building a mafia cartel in the process. In 2011 US officials discovered IRGC’s plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Iran is not the only country under a dictatorial rule, but it is the only state where fundamentalist extremists have grasped the total political power, a place where, by abusing the name of Islam, mullahs have hijacked the entire rights of the Iranian citizens. Ayatollahs in Iran have usurped almost all Iran’s wealth in industry, agriculture, import/export, etc…, and driven   Iranian workers, farmers, merchants . . .  out of business.

Four decades ago, manipulating the name of Islam bought the Ayatollahs credits at home and abroad. Today, however, the many unpopular, unjust wars and terrorism have drawn a clear demarcation separating fundamentalist extremism from the tolerant Islam. This regime has lost all the support Iranian people offered them four decades ago when the monarchy was overthrown. Daily anti-government protests and strikes reveal the people’s exasperation against the religious dictatorship and its leaders, President Rouhani and the Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Everything in Iran, including the economic growth, is reliant on the hidden war going on between the state and the people. No investor is successful as long as he ignores the people, who are the real owners of the country. During the 2009 uprising, Iranian people shouted, “Obama ba ounaii ya ba maObama are you with them or with us”. Any foreign investor or politician dealing with Iran should, before everything, question the Ayatollahs for the savage executions and blatant human rights abuses taking place in Iran’s cities every day.  Why hook yourself to whom is falling into the deep well?

 

Heshmat Alavi is a political activist and supporter for regime change in Iran. He writes on Iran and the Middle East.

He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi

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