Protests broke out in Iran this January. The world watched to determine how important the protests were for stability in the Middle East. This particular protest has garnered attention because it has happened after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal.
President Obama and other world leaders promised the JCPOA would curb Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and give the Iranian people economic security. Neither of these promises has been fulfilled. The protests show the Iranian economy is hurting. As reported by the New York Times, 80% of the economy is owned by the state and 30% of youth are unemployed. Many reports attribute the dwindling economy to nepotism. The National Review illuminated the fact that several US senators and German intelligence have announced Iran is not complying with the JCPOA.
How Did This Happen?
There have been 40 years of domestic problems in Iran. This kind of environment is destined to keep an economy from developing. Iran added to its plight by becoming the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Sponsoring terror becomes a nefarious form of isolationism because major trading partners withdraw their support. A country like Iran cannot engage in a global market when other countries do not want funds going to terror organizations. Think of the challenges to Iranians when citizens and businesses are not able to engage with comparative advantages throughout the world.
It appears the money Iran has been seeing is not trickling down to the average person. As with many regimes, corruption at the top keeps money in the hands of a few elites. In Iran, the leaders who enjoy the money are: the supreme religious leader, the Ayatollah, the President, and others in the higher levels of the government.
The concerning aspect of Iran‘s current financial problems is how other countries have placated the regime, especially the United States under the Obama administration.
Further scrutiny needs to be given to the JCPOA. The nuclear deal was negotiated by1 US Secretaries John Kerry and Ernest Moniz and it is the most influential agreement with Iran in recent history. A concise summary of the Iran nuclear deal is this: Iran was to downgrade uranium and plutonium development in exchange for permission to sell oil abroad. There was another controversial side deal where frozen assets were to be delivered to Iran in the form of cash. The first instalment totalling $400m was exchanged for hostages, which was President Obama’s departure from US precedent.
Then-Secretary of State, John Kerry, was sent as chief negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal. John Kerry claims he had an uphill battle when it came to the JCPOA. US allies were pushing for military action before the deal. This does not make for easy negotiations when people are calling for such strong action. To add to further tensions, Secretary Kerry had a good working relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
There remains one big question regarding John Kerry’s motive on the Iran nuclear deal. Why would Secretary Kerry push for a deal knowing money could end up in terrorist organizations? Could there have been a push by corporate America to conclude the JCPOA? As recently as May 2016 John Kerry was pushing for Western banks to do business with Iran. It was reported during the Iranian talks that several US companies like General Electric and Apple would benefit from lifting the sanctions under the nuclear deal.
One of the most interesting angles rarely discussed in Iran was the involvement by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Granted Secretary Moniz has a background as a nuclear physicist, and the Energy Secretary is in charge of the United States’ nuclear arsenal. There were more concerning ties Secretary Moniz had with an Italian oil company that should call for scrutiny. The Washington Free Beacon reported these ties in April 2013. Ernest Moniz had been a paid advisor to The Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) founded by Italian oil company, Eni. FEEM was created to push for the interests of Eni. Eni had been doing business with Iran.
There is no conclusive evidence that Secretary Moniz was advocating for Eni during the JCPOA talks. It is important to consider he did have a relationship with a company that could benefit from the nuclear deal.
The American government needs to reexamine the JCPOA in times like these. The nuclear deal has not fulfilled promises for the average citizen in either America or Iran. Americans should have concerns about safety as Iran continues development of uranium. Many Iranians have not seen the promised increase in standard of living. Congress should hold public hearings with corporations and public officials who had something to gain with the nuclear deal. These hearings could be done without impugning motives, but the time has come for accountability.
The world does not want to look back and see more could have been done to stop nuclear development in Iran. The problem becomes one of the incentives. Safety should be put above economic development in this case. The companies benefiting from the lift in sanctions under the JCPOA have a higher calling to consider.
These companies need to consider the peaceful lives of others. Terrorist organizations receiving money or nuclear technology is unacceptable. There are Middle East and European allies who are geographically close to Iran. They may be many miles (or kilometres) away from Iranian borders, but missile technology is sophisticated. The US government cannot be naive to the influences and consequences of implementing the JCPOA.
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