President Rouhani is showing no let up in his campaign to see the back of sanctions. He wants them lifted in the next seven months. If this happens, 2015 will be a year of major change for how Iran relates to the world economy. It will also almost certainly bring more freedom to Iran’s Christians.
Of course, the president faces the challenge of the hard-liners whose political validity rests on isolationism and xenophobia. He seems more than ready to marginalise their voices.
So last week, in a much publicised speech, he scorned the conservatives who opposed the nuclear talks, and so were in favour of the sanctions remaining.
He said: "The overwhelming majority of our nation - intellectuals, academics, theologians, the greats, and the leadership - are in favour of getting the sanctions removed".
He then told his audience of bankers to prepare for investors: “You should also prepare for interaction with the world. You should know that in the near future many investors will come to our country.”
The president is almost certainly right. Once sanctions are lifted, the investors will come because Iran is one of the few emerging markets in Asia that has not yet been integrated into the world economy. Awash with oil and gas and a young well educated population, opportunities are endless.
The economy is also awash with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement. These have thrived with Iran’s isolation, making the few rich and the vast majority poor. Foreign investment could usher in more efficient management and transparent accountancy.
In the right circumstances, the lifting of sanctions would be good news for everyone, including the Christians. Investors will create jobs and incomes will rise. Most importantly an economy growing in partnership with international investors will make the voice of the isolationists increasingly irrelevant, and the idea of locking up an ordinary Christian for talking with a foreign church because this is a ‘threat to national security’ look absurd – as it is.
President Rouhani’s time in office so far has not improved life in Iran for most people, especially Christians. Let us pray that 2015 is different.
- Sanctions to be lifted
- Investors to come
- Society to become more open