Iran and the six great powers have signed an “historic accord” in Lausanne last week, to the great displeasure of the Israeli government and the Republicans. On the contrary, business circles do share President Barack Obama’s optimism and are on their starting blocks for some profits someday when Iran sanctions end for good. However make no mistake: the lifting of these sanctions will take much time and Iran is unlikely to become a new ground for profits before long. Considering the fierce opposition the Obama administration has to deal with, both at home and abroad, it seems unrealistic to take last week’s announcements and praise for granted.
Demonstrations of joy in Tehran’s streets don’t take into account that the real hard part of the negotiations has just started. The geopolitical context that includes a double trend of highly worrying developments ongoing in Syria and Yemen will growingly impact the talks, and if Israel and the Arab countries have failed so far to deter Obama from getting back in touch with Iran, it doesn’t mean they don’t have other stronger options on the table. It’s true that when it comes to Iran, agreements are often reached – shrouded in secrecy – long before it is made public, as it could have been the case in Lausanne between the Obama and Rouhani administrations.
The same applies for business, and there are companies, some of them are US-based, which seem to be preparing their comeback – prepositioning – to Iran, directly from… Iran or neighboring countries. For a company to be among the first actors of Iran’s economic revival requires political intelligence, state-of-the-art law expertise – don’t kid with sanctions – and much patience. The bulk of the fresh money should therefore be made by just a happy few of critical size; and most of the investors will have to wait for several years before having a real chance to invest in Iran’s emerging market.