US President Barack Obama warned Friday it will take time for Iran to rejoin the global economy, as the country's leadership and citizens express unease that a sanctions windfall has been slow to materialize.
“It will take time for Iran to reintegrate into the global economy, but Iran is already beginning to see the benefit of this deal,” Obama said at a meeting of allied countries that brokered a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.
The international community lifted a raft of sanctions on Iran early this year in exchange for the country curbing its controversial nuclear program.
But months on, much of Tehran’s holdings abroad remain frozen, and US and European businesses are reluctant to do business with Iran for fear of getting tangled in a thicket of US regulations.
A host of non-nuclear sanctions related to terrorism sponsorship, ballistic missile programs and political crackdowns remain in place and are unlikely to be removed any time soon.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently accused Washington of failing to respect the terms of the nuclear agreement.
The United States has lifted sanctions “on paper,” he said, “but they are using roundabout paths to prevent the Islamic Republic from achieving its targets.”
“They have said they lifted the sanctions… but, in fact, they are working to prevent the lifting of sanctions from taking effect.”
The limited polls that are conducted in Iran also show skepticism about the country’s economic plight and America’s willingness to hold up to its side of the bargain.
Three decades of sanctions have hollowed out the Iranian economy.
According to a CISSM and IranPoll.com survey released Thursday, Iranians have a less favorable impression of the country’s economic situation now than they did before the deal came into effect in January.
While a majority of those polled back deeper economic engagement with the West, almost 70 percent do not believe the United States will meet its promises under the agreement.
Obama now appears ready to take further steps toward easing Iran’s economic isolation, laying the groundwork to again let Iran begin trading in dollars.
Washington could remove restrictions on US and European firms trading in dollars with Iran, lifting a significant barrier to trade.
The move is likely to come with multiple caveats however — including limits to so-called U-turn transactions — thanks to fierce Congressional opposition.
“As Iran continues to undermine the spirit of its nuclear agreement with illicit ballistic missile tests, the Obama administration is going out of its way to help Tehran reopen for business,” said Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan.
“The president should abandon this idea.”
Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Kirk wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew earlier this week to voice their opposition.
The pair demanded assurances that “the United States will not issue a general license authorizing ‘U-turn transactions’ for Iran, in which a US bank processes a transaction for a foreign financial institution on behalf of Iran while the Iranian part of the transaction does not touch the US financial system directly.”