May 2, 2015


Nuclear Deal or Not, Iran Is Primed to Do Business (Ned Lamont, April 26, 2015, RCP)

The latest revolution to convulse Iran is rampant capitalism. The lobby of Tehran's international hotel, The Parsian Azadi, was a modern-day bazaar with business people from around the world busily negotiating ventures. The American members of our YPO delegation were the only Americans there -- and they were not doing business.  Whether we believe that the framework nuclear deal is the best we can get or sadly deficient, Iran and the rest of the world do seem to be moving ahead, assuming a final agreement at the end of June. 

Turk, German and Chinese business people were congesting the elevators and filling the conference rooms; last week Iranian President Rouhani was walking hand in hand with his Turkish counterpart (despite their differences over Syria); Russia announced a weapons deal, Qatar and Dubai are rushing to upgrade their ports in anticipation of legal trade with Iran, and China has already stepped in to be Iran's largest trading partner. 

Yes, the financial sanctions do bite, as evidenced by half built buildings all over Tehran and Isfahan and Shiraz, and the Iranian entrepreneurs and business leaders we met were very ready to jump-start their dreams. But for day-to-day life, the sanctions look pretty leaky (pass me another Coke). Kentucky Chicken and faux Starbucks will have to do until the real McCoys can buy them up. Facebook may be illegal but an estimated 15 million users are waiting for Rouhani to finish the 3G upgrade. The young entrepreneurs working out of incubators across the country are launching their Farsi versions of Craig's List and Groupon. Only Airbnb may be banned, since the law does not allow unmarried couples to rent a room. Temporary marriage certificates are a time-honored work-around for this prohibition. 

Iran has a well-oiled work-around economy. Sanctions have created a black market that, instead of punishing the government and its cronies, allows them to get rich; they oppose the nuclear deal for mercantile reasons. But the next generation is tired of the expense and hassle of this work-around economy.  

Posted by at May 2, 2015 8:35 AM

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