If the sanctions against Iran are lifted, the Iranians will look mainly towards American firms in the oil and automobile sector to fill the gap, George Malbrunot, a journalist for French newspaper Le Figaro, told RT.
RT: Both Iran and the US are signaling a thaw in their political relations – what effect will it this have on economic ties and business? Does it look like the US is attempting to force out other companies from the Iranian market?
George Malbrunot: I think already there have been some secret contacts between US firms and Iranian counterparts in order to prepare, to anticipate the political deal between Iran and the United States. Mainly these contacts have occurred in the automobile sector. For the last year or more there have been some emissaries from General Motors, for example, going to Tehran to see their Iranian counterparts from Iran Khodro, in order to prepare the ground for the [return] of General Motors to Iran, which was very important before 1979.
So there are these kind of contacts with not only GM but other big US companies, also in the oil and gas sectors, which are very important in Iran, and it has been encouraged recently by the executive order that Barack Obama signed on June, 3, which prevents subcontractors dealing with Iranian firms in the automobile sector. And in fact this executive order was deeply targeting the French who are the only one now in the automobile sector in Iran, especially Renault, and the French contractors are very upset about that. And they interpret it as an attempt to clean the Iranian market before the return of US companies in Iran.RT: In your article, you say American companies are securing their positions on the Iranian market – how is this happening?
GM: For the last six months, we’ve heard from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomenei, that we are not any more opposed to direct contacts with the US. The businessmen are always more active in anticipating political deals and to anticipate change. During all these years of bad relations between Iran and the US there have always been some kind of secret contacts between US firms and Iranian firms. And mainly these contacts have been accelerated after the election of President Rouhani in Iran. And we’ve all seen at the last UN General Assembly in New York last month that now the Iranians are talking to the Americans. So there are preparations on the ground in order to go to Iran which is a huge market, 80 million consumers, with huge oil and gas resources, so it’s natural that US businessmen are watching very carefully the developments which happen between Iran and the US.
And not only US businessmen are very [eager] to go to Iran, but you have also the German businessmen, who have always been active, with Siemens for example, and even the British who have no diplomatic relations with Iran are now starting to [study] this market carefully. The Japanese are also very active. And unfortunately for us in France, we are perhaps the last in Europe to try to go to Iran, because for the last [few] years France was extremely active in fighting against Iran. France was exerting the pressure on Iran in order to implement the sanctions. So the French businessmen are very upset with what’s going on now, because for the last 20 years the US was [not in] Iran, and French businessmen had quite a good position in Iran – Total, Peugeot, Renault – and now they are afraid that all these years of efforts will be [wiped away] by the new deal which will happen between the US and Iran.
RT: Do you think we will be seeing an easing of sanctions against Iran soon?
GM: I think so, and the Iranians are a very proud nation and they have been always having very strange relations with Americans, love and hate, and once the sanctions will be lifted I’m quite sure the Iranians will look mainly toward American firms in the oil sector, in the automobile sector to fill the gap. So for sure European companies will be more probably losers in this kind of agreement.
I think that GM and even Chevrolet will go extremely quickly to Iran if there is a political agreement between the US and Iran, if the sanctions are lifted. I’m not sure that the Iranians will give a lot of pieces of the cake to French companies or others on this issue. And this is the reason why French companies are very worried about what’s going on in the shadow of this rapprochement between the US and Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a series of threats toward Iran and its interlocutors in the West, including the US, as serious negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program seem more plausible.
As a possible rapprochement looms between the US and Iran, Netanyahu has attempted to impose impossible Israeli conditions on the negotiators, such as the full dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, not to mention threatening military force.
Whatever the deal that could materialize between Iran and the West, Israel is going to find itself before an open-ended path. One can foresee three possible scenarios:
First: Negotiations begin and reach a deal that meets Israeli conditions. Second: Negotiations fail without reaching a deal between the parties. Third: A US-Iran deal is reached that does not take into consideration Israeli conditions, meaning, it does not lead to a complete dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program.
The first scenario, which would fulfill Israeli aspirations, is quite unlikely, something that Tel Aviv is well aware of. It is unlikely that Iran would enter negotiations under these conditions, and negotiators abandoned this scenario before they even started the negotiation process.
It remains for Tel Aviv to deal with the remaining two scenarios. Israelis are working to realize the first of the two remaining options – no deal reached between the parties – because it blocks any settlement in which the West would recognize Iran’s transformation into a possible nuclear power.
If diplomatic failure occurs, Israel would push the US toward a more inflexible position that would set the stage for more hardline options, ranging from harsher economic sanctions to military action. Several elements make this scenario possible, but it is difficult to tell at this point whether it is likely, since it is linked to the US ability to accept the official Iranian bottom line, namely, Iran’s right to enrich uranium on Iranian territory.
If the third scenario plays out – an agreement that meets the Iranian bottom line and reassures the US of limited nuclear capabilities – it would be a good deal for all parties involved, but bad for Israel. The sanctions would be lifted and Iran would get international recognition of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.
For Israel, reaching a deal with Iran means the consecration of Iran as a state with future nuclear capabilities. Even if producing nuclear weapons is not a part of its strategy, the mere fact that it would be able to do so would carry strategic consequences.
Here, a fundamental question arises: In light of such an agreement, would Israel resort to the military option that Netanyahu waved from the platform of the UN General Assembly?
Surely, Israeli officials would not, at a time when the West is counting on negotiations, resort to a direct military option against Iranian nuclear facilities. Such an act would be directed as much toward the US and the West as it would be against Tehran. Besides, the Israeli military option is no longer a self-contained option able to effectively impact Iran’s nuclear capabilities. But it is an option that can be employed to drag others, like the US and the West, into a war with Iran.
Military escalation cannot happen before exhausting the path of negotiations, and that is assuming that a military option is possible even after negotiations prove unsuccessful.
Previous experience confirms that such threats, which in the past reached a level where Israeli military planes almost took off, never dampened Tehran’s resolve to carry on with its nuclear program, a point that Israeli commentators make both explicitly and implicitly.
Deir Sharaf, Occupied Palestine – On the 5th of October, local farmers discovered that the olives from more than one hundred trees had been stolen, and that another ten trees had been damaged or destroyed. Abu Huwar farm, belonging to Yasser Fuqaha, Sidqi Fukaha, Mustafa Fuqaha and other farmers from the Meri family.
A local factory worker reported that he had seen two buses loaded with settlers pull up and unload next to the farm, in the night between the 3rd and 4th of October. About 150 metres into the field the olives had been swiftly picked from the trees, leaving small amounts on the tops, and the damaged trees bore markings from sharp-edged cutting tools. Yasser Fuqaha reported that the amount stolen from him represented about three quarters of his expected total yield, a devastating blow to his income. This attack precipitated the start of the olive harvesting season, and puts pressure on the local farmers to start harvesting the olives before they have reached optimal ripeness.
Abu Huwar has not had an easy run over the years. The local Palestinian farmers reported that, in 1996, the part of the olive grove that was on the other side of the hilltop (itself the location of an illegal settlement) had been completely uprooted by radical settlers and moved into various places on the other side of the 1967 Israeli border. Also, in the period 2000-2008, the farm and surrounding farmlands had been closed off from Palestinians by the Israeli military.
A national symbol, the olive tree represents the most essential source of income and sustenance for many Palestinians. The destruction of olive trees and theft of its yields is a serious crime and a huge loss for the local farmers.