Who should we believe? US President Barack Obama, who promises the New York Times that "Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch"? Or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, who announces that, first of all, there will be no agreement unless all sanctions are lifted and, secondly, Iran will not let foreign inspectors move freely between its legs?
By June 30, we will have read and heard other troubling details. Obama will speak to his audience, while Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will play the "bad guy" and the "good guy" in front of the world. The former will threaten and the latter will make promises. These two don't have to convince the common people. They are transparent to the government, they are dreamers, and they won't get in the way.
Khamenei is not interested in an agreement which will serve Rouhani, who is already striving to secure his second term as president thanks to the agreement. The target audience of the ruler and president focuses on the ayatollahs, the religious centers of power, and the Revolutionary Guards commanders, who preserve the regime and do its dirty work in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
With or without an agreement, the economic race has already kicked off. Take note of the most courted minister in Tehran, Bijan Namdar, who is in charge of the oil fields. The keys are in his hands, the decisions are in Khamenei's bureau. Travel agencies are reporting that there are no available seats on flights from Dubai to Tehran. Businesspeople and owners of large companies in Europe are looking for contacts in the Gulf emirates to get them into the Iranian market before the great onrush. Whoever succeeds in infiltrating the market will make billions.
Because of the sanctions, oil exports fell to 700,000 barrels a day, and Iran is indicating to the oil companies that it is capable of producing 3 million barrels. Because of the sanctions, they need electrical appliances, cars and trucks, and spare parts for planes. They just need investors to come in and revive tourism: Roads, new hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.
Obama himself admits that it will be difficult to maintain the sanctions even if an agreement is not reached. In my not so wild imagination, I even see Israeli businesspeople packing their bags. They don't have to get in. They just need someone to get a foot in the opening door for them.
A major manufacturer from the Arab world, who owns luxurious offices in a big city in Europe, has made sure to maintain his business contacts in Tehran even when the United States shut down the banking activity. This manufacturer and his Israeli partner are now dreaming of reaping the fruit. A moment after an apparent gradual or full removal of the sanctions, they will wake up their partners in the Gulf and send them to Tehran.
It won't be simple. One has to know how to do business in the Persian bazaar. One also has to know who to embrace and what will be the Revolutionary Guards' part. The Guards have offices of "interests" in the Gulf emirates in order to gain a profit from every deal.
I definitely believe that Khamenei prefers to go on with the sanctions without an agreement and not to make any concessions. I don't even see a tiny sparkle of enthusiasm in him. On the contrary: Iran is demanding a full removal of the sanctions, but in the same breath it is not preparing for a real revolution. Its face may change like in an operation performed by an amateur plastic surgeon. If the gates are opened in an uncontrolled manner and the market is flooded with investors and billions, it could shake the ayatollahs' regime.
Every year, Iran throws thousands of university graduates into the unemployment circle. Suddenly they will have a job. Suddenly there will be cash. A new generation will seek to settle the score with those who oppressed and kidnapped people into prisons, who violently interrogated and tortured and executed people in the squares.
Khamenei is in no rush. As far as he is concerned, the world can run after him and sweat. He has a lot to lose on his watch if the economic push into Iran gets out of control.