Tehran to Rome. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, took off on Monday morning and headed for the Italian capital. He will meet his Italian counterpart, Luigi Di Maio, and two Vatican heavyweights: the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the Secretary for Relations with the States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.
Touching base. This is Mr Amir-Abdollahian’s first official trip to Italy, although he had already met with Mr Di Maio in February, on the sidelines of the 58th Munich Security Conference.
- He explained that the Italian FM invited him to Rome to discuss bilateral issues, and he wishes to focus on political and economic matters as well as trade cooperation.
Will he meet Prime Minister Draghi? According to Iranian news agencies, he will. But a foreign minister’s visit to the Italian PM is an exclusive event, limited to a few select representatives of allied countries (such as the United States).
- Decode39 reached out to Mario Draghi’s offices for confirmation. They were not immediately available to respond.
Nuclear talks? The two will not devote much time to discussing the JCPOA, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, judging by the Iranian FM’s statements before his departure.
- Italy supports the nuclear agreement’s relaunch but is not directly involved in the talks. However, the two are slated to discuss topics that have much to do with the JCPOA: US sanctions.
An international pariah. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the JCPOA and imposed a string of sanctions on Iran, isolating it from the international community. Despite its efforts to restart JCPOA talks, the Biden administration is upholding the sanctions. Hence, it’s nearly impossible to trade with Iran without incurring in star-spangled repercussions.
The Ukraine effect. Now, however, several Western countries (headed by France) are pushing for Iranian oil to re-enter the global market, owing to the worldwide energy price crunch and the drive to diversify away from Russian products.
- Exempting Iranian oil would still be an exception and require Washington’s go-ahead.
- The US had allowed such exceptions for selected States, including Italy, when it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, so as to dampen the impact of Tehran’s diplomatic cut-off.
The Italian bridge. The Iranian FM appears determined to leverage the long-standing relationship between Tehran and Rome, which the former deems “complementary,” to reopen a few trade channels.
- Italy can offer machinery for industry, while Iran may sell energy, steel, petrochemical products and oil derivatives. All these sectors are affected by US sanctions.
- Tehran likely intends to leverage the Draghi government’s good relations with the Biden administration. However, the latter has repeatedly reiterated that sanctions easing cannot occur without Tehran moving forward on its nuclear programme.
And the Vatican side. Minister Amir-Abdollahian will undoubtedly talk about the JCPOA during his meetings at the Vatican, mindful of the efforts made by Pope Francis’ diplomacy – and especially by Archbishop Gallagher – to foster dialogue between the Obama administration and Iran in 2015.