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Potential sanctions, air strikes and economic pressure from the US are all topics high on the agenda of the delegates attending GTR’s second Iran Risk business briefing morning held in London this week.


To what degree their concerns were appeased is difficult to judge, but the four speakers provided the audience of bankers and lawyers with up-to-date legal, political and economic information to help them decide if and how they will continue to maintain their business links with Iran.


As the first speaker of the morning, Heinrich Matthee, Middle East analyst from Control Risks provided an overview of Iran as a regional power, outlining the growing tension with the US, as well as the different internal political factions. He drew the conclusion that a military strike by the US was unlikely before the end of 2007, however escalating tensions and any policy miscalculations could provoke military action over the next year.


The second speaker of the morning was James Howarth, deputy head, Middle East division at Exclusive Analysis. He talked about how attitudes and policies outside the US towards Iran are developing. He discussed the influence of China and how it has usurped Germany as a key exporter to Iran, as well as the effects of the relatively recent election of Sarkozy in France and how it has changed the balance of European countries that align themselves more closely with US policy. He also raised the issue of the potential for EU sanction to be imposed on Iran.


The internal economic situation, including issues with high inflation, unemployment rates and rising property prices was also raised.


After a networking break, the late-morning session began with Geoffrey Wynne, partner at Denton Wilde Sapte talking about how to ensure an Iranian investment is legally secure.


The potential passing of the Iran Counter Proliferation Act of 2007 by US Congress was highlighted by both Wynne, and Howarth’s presentation. If passed, this act could lead to even more sanctions on exports and imports to Iran. This legislation will also eliminate President Bush’s ability to waive sanctions against foreign companies that invest in Iran’s energy industry.


The morning was rounded off with Warwick Knowles, a Middle East senior economist at Dun & Bradstreet who addressed the question on many a delegate’s mind, “Who to trust in Iran”.  He provided further detail on the various political, economic and commercial risks, explaining the internal ethnic divisions in Iran and their destabilising effects on the current political regime and economy. He also talked about the Iranian banking system, the various political groups and the progress of the privatisation programme in Iran.