New Narrative

Deputy Chief Editor
New NarrativeNew Narrative

Over the past eight weeks a stop in Tehran has become de rigueur for international business and industry stakeholders along with the energy multinationals, especially from Europe, and for obvious reasons. Some come to test the political waters others to see at close range the long-awaited economic roadmap the government is unfolding for 80 million Iranians who have had more than their share of pain in this region of ostensibly   plenty.

Political leaders from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, UK and Czech Republic paid their respects to President Hassan Rouhani in the two months after marathon talks put an end to the long and drawn out conflict over the nuclear energy program. Iran and the six world powers (permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) signed an agreement in Vienna in mid-July that will put an end to the sanctions in exchange for concessions in Tehran's nuclear agenda.

Visiting Austrian President Heinz Fischer had an audience with the Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei earlier this month to get an idea of what he thinks would be the future course of Iran's once-strained ties to the West in general and Europe in particular.

The narrative of normalizing relations with the outside world will shift next week to New York when the president meets heads of governments and states as he addresses the United Nations General Assembly. After taking office in 2013 this will be Rouhani's third attempt at UNGA to inform world public opinion that Iran is a responsible country striving to grow strong economically and seeking normal relations with the comity of nations.  

All capitals have the right to their own political points and priorities that they often seek to protect and promote, at times with success and other times with setbacks. But economy is the function of open minds and vision not illusions.

On this front, a prime example is the leadership in Beijing that has become the envy of governments across the global sociopolitical landscape. A full-fledged authoritarian and communist state, China has an open market-based economy.

It does business with everything and everyone from the small merchants in the tiny lanes of Kabul to multinationals in Washington, London, Moscow, Paris, Bonn and New Delhi, to name just a few. Today it is the second largest world economy and is forecast to emerge as the first by 2030.

With the punishing sanctions and unprecedented restrictions on Iran and its economy for over a decade now slowly unraveling, the sanguine president and his aides -- with input from private enterprise -- are navigating the high platform to do business in and with Iran. Up until now given the private and public pronouncements in and outside Tehran, the economic picture and what lies ahead is not difficult to ascertain.

As partnerships and relationships with the international economic community are being constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed, one thing is certain. It has been said with clarity of purpose that Tehran will entertain new deals built on modernizing its manufacturing base, building/expanding infrastructure and putting the army of educated youth on the payrolls.

Visiting politicians, businesses and lobbyists have been informed in unequivocal terms that post-sanctions Iran will simply not be the retail market that can be dumped with consumer items as was the case in the not too distant past, which benefitted Chinese employment plans in cahoots with greedy Iranian importers looking on the cheap.

After years of tension and turmoil, the barometer in Tehran indicates clear skies and unvarnished awareness of geopolitical imperatives that will and should guide Iran's future direction. The high-powered nuclear deal is a manifestation of a new narrative and the fact that the western world has ultimately decided to see the reality on the ground, cooperate with Iran as it gets down to serious business.

Now it is for both sides to contribute to and benefit from the rare opportunity to build economic ties compatible with standards of probity, responsibility and mutual respect. If and when this happens, a big contribution will have been made to the long search for stability in the crisis-torn region where repulsive terrorism, extremism, violence and civil strife is exacting a high price.