Foreign business leaders have descended on Iran this year, eager to jump-start deals worth billions of dollars as international sanctions against Tehran are lifted, under last year's agreement to set limits on Iran's nuclear program.
For Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who consolidated his support in the final round of parliamentary elections last week, it's a sign that the nuclear deal, his premier accomplishment to date, is working.
But the promise made to the Iranian people — economic growth on a scale that would change their lives — has yet to materialize, according to analysts. And as remaining U.S. sanctions continue to bar many financial dealings with Iran, Rouhani now faces a deadline.
Political developments in both the United States and Iran could alter the future of the deal, according to Sanam Vakil, an associate fellow at the London-based think-tank Chatham House. A new U.S. president will take office in January, and any of the current candidates is likely to be harder on Iran than President Barack Obama, she says.
Iran's presidential election is coming up next year, and Rouhani’s ability to implement promised economic reforms will be in the spotlight.
“Rouhani’s window for economic reform and political change has narrowed,” Vakil explains, “He has nine months of Obama leniency before the next U.S. president steps up rhetoric and steps up pressure on the Iranian government.”
Economic growth slow
Vakil adds the economic growth Iranians expected after the nuclear deal is still stymied by investors' uncertainty, continuing U.S. sanctions and fear of “snapback” policies written into the deal.
Iran has already scaled back its nuclear program in accordance with the deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Association, but if Tehran is found to have misled the world community, economic sanctions could, as they say, snap back into place quickly.
“A lot of international investors have not returned into the Iranian market in a way that was expected,” says Vakil, “Because they are uncertain as to the ramifications and … the legal implications of remaining U.S. sanctions.”