Jolted by US withdrawal from the July 2015 nuclear deal and unable to give satisfactory European assurances over economic links, Iran turned to Russia on Saturday.
President Hassan Rouhani discussed the situation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Qingdao, China.
Repeating that Iran has fulfilled its commitments under the agreement with the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany), Rouhani elevated the Russians, “After the US unilateral and illegal exit, Moscow has an important role in the reinforcement of the JCPOA and fulfillment of the opposite sides’ commitments.”
Putin described the US withdrawal, announced by Donald Trump on May 9, as a unilateral and illegal move and said, “Moscow will continue talks with other sides to support the nuclear deal.”
But he did not explain how Moscow, with its own economic problems, could shelter Iran from the shock of expanded US sanctions which threaten foreign companies with punishment if they do not break ties with Tehran by November.
The European Union has said that it will implement a “blocking mechanism” to protect some companies from the American punishment, but has not explainined how the largest firms and deals will be protected. Last week the European Investment Bank said it cannot provide the necessary guarantees because of its need to raise billions of dollars in funding from US markets.
In recent days, European companies suspending business with Iran include French car manufacturer PSA; French energy giant Total, which was planning a $4.9 billion investment in the South Pars gas field; France’s Airbus, which had contracted to deliver 100 passenger planes to Tehran; German insurance company Allianz; leading shipping firm Maersk; and America’s General Electric.
Deputy Economy Minister Mohammad Khazaei tried to maintain some faith on Saturday with the claim that the Islamic Republic attracted about $5 billion in foreign investment over the past Iranian year (March 2017-March 2018), a 45% rise over the previous year.
He insisted that there had been no request by any foreign investor to withdraw their stake in Iran after the Trump Administration’s announcement, and “we have not yet received any report on calls for cancelling any finance contracts”.
In the hope of confirming arrangements to offset the US sanctions, Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh, and Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian have accompanied Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the SCO summit.