News / Middle East

Limitations of Nuclear Deal Temper Iranians' Enthusiasm

Reuters
It was a flourishing packing business in Iran's historic city of Isfahan, but the last two years of harsh economic sanctions brought the family enterprise to its knees.
 
Owner Gholam Dolatmardian struggled to raise the funds to keep going but finally succumbed to the inevitable, laying off his 100-strong workforce and closing the doors of the once prosperous factory.
 
The prospects for a revival of his business and those of thousands of others may depend on an interim nuclear accord reached between Iran and world powers last week. The deal has allowed those Iranians seeking greater foreign contact and the economic opportunities it brings to see a glimmer of hope for the first time in years.
 
But Iranians' enthusiasm about the accord has been tempered by its complexity and expected gradual implementation, which puts off relief from restrictions on banking, trade and international travel that ordinary Iranians seek most.
 
After a decade-long standoff, Iran has agreed to curb elements of its nuclear activities in exchange for limited relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies, opening the way for a possible broader agreement that could end Iran's long isolation.
 
“I don't know whether the sanctions will be lifted soon, but of course it is my dream to reopen my factory,” Dolatmardian said by phone. “It was a family business and I want my children to continue it.”
 
He inherited the factory from his father, like his father before him. But he closed it in 2011, when sanctions prevented him from obtaining letters of credit or wiring money to European suppliers. He sold off properties to pay his employees before eventually shuttering the 35-year-old factory.
 
Last week's diplomatic breakthrough led him to wonder about restarting the business, but for now he faces the same obstacles of accessing the global banking system.
 
U.S. anti-money laundering legislation is still in place, making it difficult for banks that have any U.S. business to maintain ties with Iran. As a result, Iranian firms will continue to find it difficult to obtain letters of credit or conduct international bank transfers.
 
So while Iranian businessmen may sense a lucrative investment opportunity around the corner, many are still taking a wait-and-see approach.
 
Ahmad Hakimzadeh, who runs an import-export company in the northwestern city of Tabriz, said he has already received calls from Western companies about resuming business relations which they had broken off under pressure from sanctions.
 
He said he cannot make any plans with his foreign partners while financing restrictions remain in place, but he knows there would be demand the moment the curbs are lifted.

Open to the world

Nevertheless, after eight years of growing isolation, the election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and the nuclear accord are allowing many Iranians to contemplate a future free of such restrictions and the economic challenges they produce.
 
Thousands of Iranians studying abroad are hoping the agreement will help them pay their education bills, buoyed by the deal's promise of $400 million in governmental tuition assistance for students at foreign universities.
 
The Iranian rial, devalued by sanctions, has increased the cost of living abroad more than three-fold since 2011, and curbs on Iranian banks have made it nearly impossible for families to transfer money to pay their children's tuition. Students must often carry thousands of dollars out of Iran.
 
But the deal's vague terminology and slow implementation leave students only to hope that the relief will reach them.
 
“If they allow families to transfer and wire money from Iran, that could be great because we have so many problems with transferring money,” said Misagh Heidari, who is pursuing his master's degree at California State University, Northridge.
 
“But if it's about government tuition assistance, we do have government scholarships but they're so limited,” he said.
 
U.S. Treasury spokesman John Sullivan told Reuters payments would come “from Iran's restricted oil revenue held outside of the country,” without providing detail about their disbursal.
 
Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, confirmed the size and source of the tuition aid.
 
“It was agreed to pay university and college fees directly for Iranians studying abroad for a period of six months,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. But it is not clear which students and institutions the measure will benefit.
 
Ahmad, who studies in Belgium, said money earmarked for tuition assistance “does not make any sense to me or my friends. We don't know who is the target group.”
 
Students and others are also hoping the detente between Iran and the West will make it easier to travel internationally. The deal includes no easing on visa restrictions or direct flights, but Iranians expect reintegration into the world community will yield improvements.
 
Mahboubeh Zare's children have not returned to Iran since moving to the United States nearly a decade ago. The 63-year-old from the southern port city of Bandar Abbas said she hopes now it will be easier to see her children.
 
“My son wants to come and visit me this summer,” she said. “This deal is bringing back my children to their homeland.”

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs