Is Italy helping bring down the sanctions? Iran and Italy's economic ties raising the US' eyebrows
The US officials are concerned that the Italian government’s recent rush to reenter the Iranian marketplace could hasten the collapse of economic sanctions against Tehran.
The Italian government has been leading the charge to reopen the Iranian marketplace in order to cash in on Tehran’s energy sector, the Iranian students news agency reported. As the Italians seek to boost their economic ties with Iranâsending high-level officials and lawmakers for talks, The US officials and other experts say they are growing concerned that Italy’s move could undermine the sanctions regime. A delegation of Italian lawmakers met with a top Iranian official over the weekend, possibly laying the groundwork for a visit later this month by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, according to Iranian officials. The visit by top Italian lawmakers was deemed a great success by both governments. One US official involved in Iran sanctions said that Italy’s efforts to court Iran are damaging sanctions. ”Italy’s activities are already having detrimental effects on the sanctions regime against Iran,” said the source, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the issue. Italy and Iran have been working to increase their diplomacy across all levels of the government since around August of 2013. Italy’s deputy foreign minister made a high-profile trip in August to Tehran, where he discussed ways to expand bilateral relations between the two nations. Iranian Foreign Minister and Top Nuclear Negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif reciprocated in November, when he traveled to Italy to meet with his Italian counterpart Emma Bonino, who expressed his desire to reenter Iranian sectors affected by sanctions. Iran’s oil minister in December met with the head of Italy’s largest oil company, the ENI, to pave the way for future energy projects. Italy’s Bonino also spent two days in Tehran in December to discuss with Zarif potential new activities to work on once sanctions are rolled back. Former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema was also in Iran around the same time to tout the benefits of the recently reached interim nuclear agreement that provides Tehran some $7bln in sanctions relief. In addition to cashing in on Iran’s oil sector, the Italians reportedly hope to play a role in Tehran’s chemical, textile, medicine, gas, and car trade. An Italian trade mission is slated to meet with Iranian officials later this month. Emanuele Ottolenghi, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), said that Italy is determined to do business with Tehran.