interview with "Tehran Times" (September 13, 2016)

     Despite the JCPOA, some major European banks are reluctant to enter banking transactions with Iran, fearing a punishment by the U.S. Treasury. What are the main obstacles?

The main obstacle is that the dollar cannot be used as a currency in transactions between Iran and Europe without triggering sanctions from the USA. But most international transactions use the dollar, even if for purely technical reasons. For instance, if you want to transform an important sum of rials into euros, it goes very often in the international banking system through a transformation of your rials into dollars before these dollars are in turn transformed into euros. That is enough to activate the US sanctions. Another obstacle is the gap existing between the Iranian banking system and the international system, as the Iranian system has been isolated for many years from the outer world. Finally, European banks are afraid of campaigns of « name and shame » in the United States if they develop relations with Iran. But I am confident that channels will be found with time to go around most of these obstacles.

 Why does Europe not want to cooperate with Iran ?

The Europeans certainly want to cooperate with Iran, as was shown by the numerous delegations of businessmen who have visited Iran and the important amount of agreements which have been signed. Current trade is already developing, but important projects take time to take shape. On the Iranian side, aloso, there have been delays, for instance for the adoption of the new model of Iranian Petroleum Contract, and till then nothing could start in this field. 

Why is US terrorizing European banks into not reviving business ties with Iran?

Frankly, I believe that Obama and Kerry are sincere when they say that they support the development of trade between Iran and Europe, but, as you know, there are still strong resistance from the US political establishment, the Neoconservatives, the Republicans, and all the people in the public and the private sector who wish to see the failure of the JCPOA.

 Is JCPOA in danger?

Yes, indeed. It is a very fragile agreement, which needs good faith and positive spirit on both sides, going beyond its sheer letter, to succeed in the long run.  But what will happen after Obama ? What will happen after Rouhani, if he is not reelected next spring ? This gives reasons to worry.

For Iran, the disappointing results of the nuclear deal in terms of opening up of channels of trade and investment have raised the opportunity for Conservators to play a role. How do you see the political perspectives?

Even with the best good will on all sides, one could not hope that things would change at full speed after the entry into force of the agreement. I understand very well all the reasons that the Iranians had to be impatient, but you illusioned yourselves when you thought that opening and prosperity would come back in a few weeks or months. It is only in two or three years than people will be able to feel fully the benefits of the agreement… If the agreement is still alive !

 What is your prediction for JCPOA ? What are the issues involved in implementing or violating the agreement?

The JCPOA should clearly be seen by all parties as a precious common good to be protected by all means, but, sadly, it is not the case today. There are powerful opponents in the United States, but also in Iran, and Europe is caught in between, without the capacity to counter these oppositions.

 Are the doubts and opposition over Airbus and Boeing sales to Iran, not a clear violation of JCPOA ? As it targets the basic needs of the lives of ordinary people ? How do you see the future of this deal?

 Again, these are heavy and complex decisions which take some time to take shape. But I am optimistic about the return of Airbus and Boeing in Iran. The US administration has to give its agreement to the sales, under a few conditions, as a denial would be a clear violation of the letter and spirit of the JCPOA.

 How do you analyze the cooperation between Iran and Europe in the energy sector?

On this point too, I am confident that cooperation will develop and blossom as never before…There is a real need in Iran and European companies are eager to play a major positive role in your country. You have « to give time to time » as former French President François Mitterrand used to say…

What would be the consequences if JCPOA is not implemented?

It would be, of course, a major disaster for everybody, : for Europe, for the United States, for Iran, for the whole Middle East, with the return of tension, economic depression, risks of war…. Let us hope that these perspectives will stop short the opponents of the agreement from reckless behaviour... 

 Is Europe willing to cooperate with Iran to combat terrorism?

 In principle, yes, of course. But the difficulty is to agree precisely on who is a terrorist and who is not. As you know the Middle East is at the moment a region where the friend of your friend is not necessarily your friend, the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend either, the friend of your enemy could very well be your friend, and the enemy of your friend could also be your friend…

 How do you see the future of relations between Iran and Europe?

There has always been a deep and close relationship between Iran and Europe, not always easy, but made of mutual respect, admiration and understanding. Frankly, I believe that, all in all, in spite of all the past crises, the Europeans remain the best and closest friends of Iran in the whole world. Our task today is to build on this basis to reach new heights… here, the sky is the limit !

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