Negotiations On Legal Status of Caspian Sea Approach Finish Line

◢ Negotiations on the international legal status of the Caspian Sea, which started in 1996, appear to have at last reached the finish line. After 22 years, the five countries around the sea have come close to signing a convention on its legal status. If they do, it seems that the agreement will allow to pave the way for the construction of the underwater the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline and other projects and will also close the access to the sea for the armed force of third countries.  

Three Years Later: Europe’s Last Push on the Iran Nuclear Deal

◢ The Iran nuclear agreement marked its third anniversary in a gloomy state. Many hoped that the resolution of the nuclear dispute would result in a new understanding between the West and Iran, opening a pathway for detente rather than confrontation. Relations between Europe and Iran have certainly made gains in this direction, but the Trump administration’s maximalist stance on Tehran has created an extremely hazardous environment for all remaining stakeholders in the nuclear deal.

Could Trump Deliver Iran an Oil Windfall?

◢ The president’s recent statement that OPEC may have something to do with the president’s own decision to create a crisis with Iran. While attention is duly paid to how much Americans have to pay at the pump, a more subtle and complicated story will soon play out with respect to Iran and the reapplication of US sanctions ordered by Trump on May 8, 2018. In fact, unless oil prices are contained, the primary result of the president’s action may be to ensure that Iran profits from the oil market risks that sanctions have created.

Iran Shows New Savvy in Defining Outcome of Key Nuclear Deal Meeting

◢ Iran has finally learned how to use the Joint Commission of the nuclear deal to tackle its economic challenges. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif got what he needed from the ministerial meeting. Two months following Trump’s abrogation of the nuclear deal, the remaining parties to the agreement proved able to present a consensus position on the need to protect Iran’s economic interests in direct contravention of the declared US policy. On practical implementation, bilateral exchanges are the preferred route forward.

Europeans Beat Back Americans as FATF Gives Iran More Time on Financial Reforms

◢ At its plenary meeting in Paris, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) opted “to continue the suspension of countermeasures” related to Iran’s inclusion in the so-called “blacklist” of countries with deficiencies in anti-money laundering (AML) and combating financing of terrorism (CFT) standards.  The suspension will be in place until October 2018. The suspension can be seen as a victory for European and Iranian multilateral cooperation in the face of the increasingly hostile American posture. 

As Trump Goes Nuclear On Iranian Oil, Europe Must Match His Brinkmanship

◢ As the US chooses the "nuclear option" on Iran's oil, Europe must find leverage and force the US to walk back on its announced policy of driving down Iranian oil exports to zero. The negative consequences for European economy could prove significant, and the risks of regional escalation are high. There are three measures that the EU can pursue to pressure Trump and prevent a dangerous escalation.

Closure of Tehran Bazaar Reflects Fierce Elite Competition, Not Popular Politics

◢ The bazaar of today is not the bazaar of forty years ago, and no longer plays the same role as a key actor in Iran’s popular political mobilizations. The recent bazaar closures reflect primarily the economic self-interest of bazaar elite, who sense an opportunity to put the brakes on reforms that threaten their unique capacities for lucrative arbitrage. Protests are being co-opted as a political tool at the expense of genuine civil society mobilization.

FATF Faces Test of Fairness on Iran at Plenary Meeting

◢ Iran is facing the end of a four month extension given by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for the reform of the country’s AML/CFT regulations. Iran will be hoping for a further extension of the suspension of countermeasures at the June plenary of the FATF. Some FATF members have sought to characterize such extensions as exceptional. However, extensions are a common procedure, and FATF ought to treat Iran’s case in fair recognition of this fact.

High Stakes for Iran in Upcoming FATF Meeting

◢ A few days ahead of an international meeting in which Iran’s efforts to improve anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) standards will be reviewed, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to pour cold water on the reform process. Yet, it is premature to assume that Iran’s consultations with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are suddenly over after two years of close coordination. As the FATF’s plenary meeting approaches, the stakes are high for Iran, which is seeking another extension for implementation of its action plan.

Over-Compliance on Iran Sanctions Can Lead to Discrimination

◢ Ireland’s Workplace Relations Commission has fined an unnamed bank EUR 20,000 for discrimination against an Iranian couple. The ruling points to a growing case precedent in Europe on acts of sanctions over-compliance which lead to discrimination of Iranian persons or individuals and businesses who maintain financial links to Iran.

New US Sanctions Target Operator of Iran's Presidential Aircraft

◢ The US Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control on Thursday announced a new round of targeted sanctions designations, including sanctions on Dena Airways, the company which operates the Iran’s presidential aircraft used by Hassan Rouhani for official travel. The new sanctions follow the designation of Iran’s central bank governor, Valliollah Seif, and reflect a further targeting of the Rouhani administration.

Increased Competition Squeezes Air France in Iran

◢ Air France recently announced the reduction of its flights from Paris to Tehran after first switching the service on the route to its subsidiary airline JOON. At a time of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Iran nuclear deal, the reduction of flights led to speculation that the move may have been influenced by the return of sanctions. But a look to the current competitive environment shows other significant changes to the market to which Air France was forced to react. 

Cañete to Discuss Vital Central Banking Solution on Iran Visit

◢ Europe’s Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete is set to travel to Tehran this weekend. Cañete’s visit will include discussions on possible new payment mechanisms designed to allow Europe to repatriate oil revenues to Iran’s central bank despite despite Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, offering a vital lifeline for the Iranian economy as sanctions begin to bite.

They Want War With Iran, They’re Settling For Economic War

◢ On Tuesday, French officials convened a briefing for French business on possible responses to Trump’s reimposition of secondary sanctions. French Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire reportedly cited the French parable that “money is the nerve of war” to describe what is at stake. He may be more correct than he realizes, as the Trump administration gears-up for an economic war on Iran.

Total CEO Pouyanné: Transatlantic Partners Risk Gifting Iran to 'China and Russia'

◢ Speaking on Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C. think tank, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné faced several questions about his company’s recently announced decision to wind down operations in Iran following the reapplication of secondary sanctions by the Trump administration. Pouyanné warned that the “Atlantic allies” risk giving “all the Middle East region to China and Russia.”

Ambiguity in Trump Sanctions Could Put Humanitarian Trade with Iran at Risk

◢ In the years when Iran was under broad international sanctions, the country saw shortages in key foodstuffs and life-saving medicines. Despite attestations to the contrary, international sanctions hurt the Iranian people in cruel ways. As Iranians prepare for the return of U.S. sanctions, concerning ambiguity in OFAC’s new sanctions guidance may undermine the longstanding exemptions for humanitarian trade and the carve-outs for the Iranian banks which facilitate these sales.

U.S. Sanctions on Iran Set to Return: A Simple Explainer

◢ On 8 May 2018, U.S. President Trump announced that the United States “will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal” and that the United States “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions”. At the same time, U.S. authorities announced that U.S. sanctions would be re-instated, at the latest by 4 November 2018. What does this mean for companies who have ties to Iran or who do business in Iran?

After Trump’s Iran Decision: Time for Europe to Step Up

◢ The E3 should now acknowledge that its negotiating tactic of accommodation and comprise with Trump has failed. If Europe is to have any influence forthcoming US policy on Iran, European governments should quickly shift tack, unifying behind a more assertive diplomatic strategy aimed at deterring the worst-case scenario of renewed Iranian nuclear program and more instability and violence in a region close to its borders.