Trade and working agreements that were signed between Iran and a host of European companies during a recent European tour of Italy and France by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have important strategic achievements, which have been missed in most media analyses. Some critics, who have described such contracts as a form of “giving concession” to the West, are not fully aware of their strategic value. Therefore, the following three important points need to be made public with regard to functions of these contracts.
1) From a legal viewpoint, conclusion of these contracts by the Iranian government will guarantee continuation of the achievements of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), even in the event of its possible failure. In fact and in simple words, according to Article 14 of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, those contracts that are signed at the time that anti-Iran sanctions are lifted, will be largely immune if sanctions snap back. In other words, even in case of restoration of sanctions, they will not be applied “retrospectively” to cover these contracts too.
Therefore, such important and vast areas of cooperation as energy, air transportation, telecommunications, health, environment, agriculture, education, transportation and many others sectors, which are covered by contracts that have been signed with the European sides, will be largely immune to possible snapback of sanctions. This situation, while being a source of confidence and stability for the private sector and helping Iran’s industries to take advantage of many important services and modern technologies, will also change the balance of power in favor of Iran in the course of the implementation of JCPOA. In fact, the bitter experience of sanctions and their ensuing shock, on the one hand, and the conditions related to the period of the implementation of JCPOA and the need to bolster Iran’s standing in negotiations during this period, on the other hand, provide good justification for recent cautionary measures taken by the government, while providing necessary psychological atmosphere to attract investors.
2) By signing valuable and long-term contracts with European private sector and important countries, and by making those companies dependent on Iran, the administration of President Rouhani will practically create some sort of civil and organic “resistance” in the European Union’s capitals against possible restoration of sanctions and also in the face of hostile policies that may be adopted against Tehran. During past days, we have seen that some critical media are angry or even concerned that why, as they claim, Rouhani administration has, for example, “saved” France’s Airbus from stagnation, and have complained about what they perceived as “generosity” of the Iranian administration citing France’s behavior in past years. In reality, however, such critics have failed to look at this issue from the viewpoint of the opposite side and have not been able to correctly assess strategic advantages of such a relationship for Iran. In fact, considering the sensitive economic situation that currently prevails in Europe, the fate and competitive ability of the most important European companies, and subsequently, the fate of thousands of jobs and employees of those companies hinges on good relations with Tehran. As a result, economic actors as well as the civil society in these countries will be more than willing to push for the improvement and maintenance of relations with Iran.
3) By signing valuable contracts with world-famous European companies – and by doing this through a well calculated publicity stunt – Rouhani administration has been practically trying to prompt many of their American rivals to raise their voice against the continuation of the United States’ unilateral sanctions against Iran.
Even as of now, early signs of protest to “American companies lagging behind” their European counterparts can be seen in the US media due to legal restrictions imposed on American companies for trade with Iran. Even some top politicians and presidential candidates in the United States have reacted to this issue. Therefore, we see that a person like the US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who has always introduced himself as a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal with Iran, has appeared on US media and social networks, expressing his consternation at the fact that France’s Airbus has succeeded to sell planes to Iran instead of the United States’ Boeing. Naturally, continuation of such protests and gradual awareness of the US public opinion about them can lead to emergence of some sort of popular resistance against continuation of Washington’s unilateral sanctions against Iran. The least such protests can do is to make American companies take steps to prevent further anti-Iranian measures by the US Congress, or find loopholes in the laws as well as legal mechanisms to circumvent sanctions. Apart from expert and constructive critiques of the recent contracts, in reality, the lion’s share of criticism that is raised by those Iranian media who are against the administration’s policies is based on the premise that when dealing with the West, it is Iran, which is always at loss and puts its independence in jeopardy and open to their control. However, Iran’s new position and power in international arena as well as the type of relations and the dynamism between the private and public sectors in Western countries, easily refutes this premise.
(Reza Nasri, Iran Review)