On January 13th the United States and European nations lifted oil and financial sanctions on Iran, and released roughly $100 billion of its assets. Western companies responded quickly in approaching the country in an effort to sell everything from aircraft to oilfield services to business and state organizations which have been economically untouchable since the George W. Bush administration
Five Americans, including a Washington Post reporter, Jason Rezaian, were released by Iran hours before the nuclear accord was implemented. Many of the presidential candidates, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Donald J. Trump, denounced the swap as a sign of weakness, and they have long promised to review or withdraw from the nuclear agreement. This position may be adding impetus to trade efforts in case the terms of the deal are modified by the next administration.
In addition to the release of the “unjustly detained” Americans, seven Iranians, either convicted or charged with breaking American embargoes, were released in the prisoner swap, and 14 others were removed from international wanted lists.
How much cash Iran now has access to is a matter of dispute. A senior American official said Saturday that Iran will be able to access about $50 billion of a reported $100 billion in holdings abroad, though others have used higher estimates. The official said Iran will likely need to keep much of those assets abroad to facilitate international trade.
The Obama administration on Saturday also removed 400 Iranians and others from its sanctions list and took other steps to lift selected restrictions on interactions with Iran. Another 200 people, however, will remain on the sanctions list under for other reasons, including terrorist activities, human rights abuses, involvement in civil wars in Syria or Yemen or ties to the country’s ballistic missile program.
Under the new rules put in place, the United States will no longer sanction foreign individuals or firms for buying oil and gas from Iran. The American trade embargo remains in place, but the government will permit certain limited business activities with Iran, such as selling or purchasing Iranian food and carpets and American commercial aircraft and parts.