By Mahmood Khaghani

The art of the deal

November 11, 2016

The deal between Iran and 5+1 (the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China) meant to convince Iran to pursue its peaceful nuclear program, in exchange, for 5+1 lifting, from Iranian points of view  unjustified,  economic sanctions. 

EU governments were and are at the front of the line to restore and develop business relationship as usual with an Iran with a large economy capacity as well as with young and growing population. In a workshop organised on the side line of the EU-Iran Oil, Gas & Energy Summit organised by London based IRN & held during 1-3 November 2016 in Berlin, ICCIMA Education & Research Institute, the International Centre for Energy Arbitration (ICEA- Scotland), Iran Embassy in Berlin, as well as European based law firms participated  in the workshop discussed the issue related to what was said during the  presidential campaign by president elect Trump that the deal "gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us absolutely nothing -- it will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated." The conclusion of the workshop was that President elect Trump could not hit Iran with sanctions again. However, many mainstream media in US and elsewhere as soon as it was cleared that who is the next President of USA reported that President elect Trump will now try to kill the historic agreement between 5+1 with Iran over its nuclear program and re-impose sanctions. But could he do such an act?

According to USA President elect Doland Trump campaign Web site,  and in case he sticks to his election rhetoric’s, during his presidential tenure starting in January 2017  he is to end “the current strategy of nation-building and regime change” of USA administration policies against Iran which was set during President Bush era of Presidency.

In fact the result of US presidential election means majority of USA people are sick and tired of US government foreign-policy that may have been very much noticed particularly by US citizen in relation to USA anti Iran and what was declared by President Bush “regime change”. It is also in my view unfair to compare in any way President elect Trump with any other past or present presidents of other courtiers as few mainstream publication in USA have attempted to do so. In fact it seems that we are now witnessing a new era not only in USA, but also in EU and perhaps in Middle East of new approach and respect for prioritizing democratic values & stability which may result in more trust in international relationships.

USA relationship with Dictators:

We need to be realistic about what Presidential Candidates say during their election campaign and what they will do when they are sitting on President’s Chair. Let me remind what before taking office, President Obama said with regard to USA allied who are regarded as royals and dictators, for their repression policies against their own people in relation to their reliance on the U.S. military for their security. In Chicago, in 2002, at a public meeting Obama said “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East—the Saudis and the Egyptians—stop oppressing their own people and suppressing dissent and tolerating corruption and inequality.” When, he took the Chair of USA President according to President elect Trump with financial support of Saudis and their allied ISIS was created that now USA needs to change its policies in this regard.  Saudi’s also financed and led campaigns in USA and globally to derail new Western government foreign policies in relation to Iran’s newly elected administration and as result tensions increased during and after US-EU (5+1) administrations decisive decision in opening a dialogue with Iran.

New US administration and the commodity markets and oil in particular?

It is obvious that unexpected USA  election  has caused  global uncertainty that what a circumstances for taking decisions Trump victory would create for policymakers not only in EU but everywhere particularly within  OPEC.

Currently WTI is below 50$/b at an  average of  $43.37/b. President elect  Trump victory could be followed by a rapprochement with Russia, and  lifting of Treasury sanctions on the Kremlin that may  improve  investment in Russian energy industry. At the same time as it was discussed during Berlin Summit EU may insist on investment in Iran energy industry and opposes Trump’s views on the Iranian nuclear deal. However, observers are of the view that Trump’s victory has created a situation that increases volatility in the oil market.

Trump’s foreign policy?

The Persian Gulf states, all are now struggling with plunging oil prices, are worried about what newly elect President of USA policy may be with regard to Iran as his foreign policy has not yet been well defined. They managed to mend their relationship with Democrats in USA and financially supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign and are very concern about America’s growing energy independence, which may enable President elect Trump to fulfil his election campaign as stated above and withdraw from US customised anti Iran policies. He has already made it clear that the U.S. government under his presidency will have no commitment to provide military security for their undemocratic and dictatorship rulings.  However, this should be taken into account that President elect Trump is a business man who has been involved with noticeable transactions with Saudi ruling families, such as a deal in which he sold a  mega-yacht to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz,  who has a large stake in the Plaza Hotel, bought from Trump.

Trump won’t rip up Iran deal:

Walid Phares, one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers, recently made a comment that represented a change with regard to views and   comments made by other Trump advisers and the president-elect himself. He highlighted that there are persisting confusion over what the outlined of a Trump administration’s foreign policy may look like on Iran.

Speaking to BBC Radio on Thursday 10th Nov. 2016, Walid Phares said the nuclear deal, which Trump has railed against and vowed to dismantle, would instead be renegotiated with Tehran. According to CNN, he said:  “Ripping up is maybe a too strong of word, he’s gonna take that agreement, it’s been done before in international context, and then review it,” he added: “He will take the agreement, review it, send it to Congress, demand from the Iranians to restore a few issues or change a few issues, and there will be a discussion. It could be a tense discussion...”

What will President Trump mean for Iran?

To analysis what will be newly elected USA president plan for business relationship with Iran I exchanged views with Chris Cook a senior research fellow at University College London, he told me that in his view as intuition early this year that Donald Trump was likely to become US President was confirmed by the UK referendum Brexit decision in May this year to leave the European Union. Both of these major political surprises had the same root cause, which is the concentration of wealth due to automation and globalisation. Only 60 people now possess as much wealth as over 50% of the global population, who are increasingly unhappy with those they hold responsible.

Firstly, any US President is restricted in what he can achieve: firstly by the US legislature, secondly by a powerful executive branch and thirdly by a Central Bank (the Federal Reserve Bank) which is ruled not by the interests of the US but by the interests of global finance capital.

Secondly, many commentators are worried about Trump's rationality and his finger on the nuclear button. Chris Cook is further of the opinion that he is not in the least worried because Trump is - like President Putin – a pragmatic businessman who is aware that global nuclear war is bad for business, and also understands that no-one undertakes suicide bombing for profit.

Finally, President-Elect Trump is not motivated by religion, by ideology or even by money. He is a business man and real estate developer motivated by ego and by the need to be seen to win.

The Art of the Deal:

Trump's 1987 book The Art of the Deal is a combination of a business book and memoirs. His approach to business – and hence to negotiation – is the precise opposite of that in Iran. Whereas Iranians are among the toughest negotiators in the world, in Chris Cook experience once an agreement is reached it tends to be honoured.

For Trump this is not the case – his companies have defaulted on their obligations (gone bankrupt) no less than five times, and he is notorious for the ruthless way in which he deals with suppliers and other counter-parties. Trump trusts no-one and therefore it is unwise for Iran, EU and others to trust him. Now that he leads USA, which issues the global reserve currency (dollars) then non-performance of obligations is a matter of choice, because dollars may always be printed to meet obligations.

The question is what kind of policies could Iran consider in dealing with President elect Trump that firstly he as a business man might become interested and accept, and secondly, is likely to honour any agreements even in the medium term in response to events?

The Art of Winning:

According to Chris Cook suggestions the best way to deal with the US led by President elect Trump must be to create economic relationships which represent a 'Win' for both the US and Iran. This can never be the case for any purchase of equipment or technology from the US which is financed by dollar debt or (as with recent proposed aircraft deals) by leases payable in dollars, since the dollars printed by the US do not represent value, but merely a claim over value manufactured by the US banking system.

The solution is evident in the new wave of swap transactions now under way – as Chris Cook and his colleagues at Petro Scotland have advocated for years  which is announced recently by NIGC Managing Director that  Turkmen gas supplied (through a private sector initiative) to Iran is being exchanged for a supply of Iranian gas to the Republic of Azerbaijan.

So, if Iran were to propose to the US a swap of the use of US technology & hardware against Iranian energy flow this would create a Win/Win solution. The key is the issuance by Iran of promises (credits) returnable in payment for Iranian oil, gas or electricity. Any US company supplying Iran with technology would know that even if it is illegal to receive Iranian physical energy, or impossible to be paid through the US dollar clearing system, they would nevertheless be able to exchange Iran's energy credits for goods and services from international companies who could themselves use these energy credits to pay for Iranian energy supply.

Energy Diplomacy=Energy Cooperation:

Chris Cook believes that the UK Brexit vote and the accession of President Trump to power destroy the old ideological certainties of Left (Public) and Right (Private). He says that constructive engagement with the US and the EU is possible, but not within the failed commodity market paradigm which led to this global economic and political turning point. 

 At recent EU- Iran Oil, Gas & Energy Berlin Summit in my presentation in association with Chris Cook, we offered a window of opportunity that has opened for a new services market paradigm based upon energy co-operation and the principle of resource resilience – that is to say that for any given use of energy as a service – transport, heat/cooling, or power the use of finite resources such as oil, gas and water will be minimised.

This approach of course is not an alternative to the existing dollar economy, but it is complementary to it and enables the kind of mutually beneficial (Win/Win) relationship which is necessary for Iran in its new policy to engage safely with President elect Trump.

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