Americans watch as Iran sanctions crumble

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TEHRAN: The US government is warning against a rush for trade with Iran but US allies are not waiting for sanctions on Tehran to come down and the American media is taking note. 

France’s ambassador to the US Gerard Araud says critics of the Iranian gold rush should recall that Iran’s neighbors and its traditional trading partners in Europe have suffered far more from the sanctions than their American counterparts.

“Really, we lost a lot of money, not the Americans,” he said. “So stop taking the high moral ground. European businessmen are not more greedy than the American ones and not less either,” he said at the Atlantic Council forum.

Hence, both sides have their eyes on the ball and the Americans are keeping the tabs on the delegates visiting Tehran to scope out prospects.

The Washington Times has the list of Italian oil executives visit Tehran, scouting out deals, French farmers and fisheries discussing technological exchanges and India developing a major Iranian port in the Gulf of Oman.

“Iran’s oil — easy to access and cheap to extract — is a big draw, but it’s not the only one,” the paper said, citing Russia which said this week it has given six Iranian food concerns the right to export dairy and poultry products to the country.

Representatives of European companies are attending an international oil and gas exhibition held in Tehran this month. 

The Times said the enthusiasm for deals could prove a political headache for the Obama administration, because “the more deals that are struck in the wake of a deal, the more difficult it will be to cut them off later on”.

But the interest in the Iranian market shows little sign of slowing, it said.

“If you go to Iran today, you find that there is an appetite for a lot of Western products,” it quoted Peter Westmacott, Britain’s ambassador to the US, as saying at the Atlantic Council forum this week.

“It is not surprising that a lot of companies would like to do business in Iran. It has great potential, resources and natural wealth. At the right moment, companies will start looking at that again.”

Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to Washington, said at the same forum that there was great “potential” in the opening up of the Iranian economy as he advised caution.

Earlier this week, Der Spiegel said the federal government expects a strong increase in German exports to Iran if sanctions against Tehran are removed.

Several German delegations, including industry owners and investors, have visited Iran in recent weeks. 

Even some US companies are elbowing for space as anticipation is building.

ExxonMobil Corp. had to play down a Bloomberg report this month that is had hired lobbyists to push the envelope on Iran sanctions with the government, saying it was merely trying to keep up with the latest policy shifts.

Exxon’s rivals are going even further. Claudio Descalzi, chief executive of Italy’s Eni SpA, traveled to Tehran earlier this month to discuss freeing company funds that were frozen in Iran and to discuss the possibility of future deals if the sanctions come down.

The US oil giant is intrigued by some of its rivals’ sojourns in Tehran, including by CEO of Italy’s Eni SpA’s Claudio Descalzi who traveled to the Iranian capital earlier this month.

Iranian expatriates are encouraged. Some 2,000 members of the diaspora plan to gather in Berlin next month for the iBridges conference to explore opportunities to invest in Iran’s high-tech industries.

At home, the government is lining up a series of incentives to attract expatriates for investment.

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