The JCPOA: A Bonanza for European Big Business

The Free Iranian Staff


The European Union’s role in negotiating the six party (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China) 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Khomeiniist regime, and their desperate attempts to preserve it after Donald Trump withdrew the USA from the agreement in May 2018, is known to nearly all. However, the motivations behind the Europeans’ coddling of the regime is usually not discussed much. The facts are, however, that the major European economies stood to make hundreds of billions of dollars from trading with the mullahs, and so, for these monetary expedients, they chose to ignore their-often stated human rights commitments.


Western European economies have long been especially reliant on exports; with government and corporate budgets tied down with heavy taxes and social expenditures, European institutions feel the need to sell whatever they can, and to buy at the best price they can bargain for. In determining foreign policies, large corporations have a huge role in western Europe, and government officials frequently act as trade coordinators when meeting with foreign counterparts.

The Khomeiniist regime has traded heavily with western Europe since its establishment in 1979, and the European countries long resisted sporadic American attempts to impose international sanctions on Tehran. In 2012, finally, the European Union did reluctantly agree to sanction Tehran, as part of an international effort to isolate and pressure the regime. They also seized all regime funds banked there. This was not to last long, however, as the deal signed in July, 2015, guaranteed that sanctions would be lifted, and all funds returned to the regime, six months afterwards.

The Bazaar Opens

 In January, 2016, immediately after the lifting of sanctions and the return of $100 billion to Tehran’s control, regime president Hassan Rouhani travelled to Europe. Visiting Italy and France, Rouhani signed contracts worth tens of billions of dollars in four days. It is worth noting that, in essence, Rouhani was simply returning the funds the Europeans had taken from Iran back to Europe, to buy products and services. The companies doing business with Rouhani were a veritable who’s who of Italy’s and France’s largest establishments: Airbus, Total, Peugeot, Vinci, Danieli, Saipem, and Aeroports de Paris. Over the next two years, more and more contracts would be signed with the regime, and the UK and Germany, other parties to the JCPOA, were equally involved. The year to year trade statistics increased by leaps and bounds, as the tables below of imports and exports shows:

Imports from Iran TO:

                                                2015                                  2016                                    2017

United Kingdom $35.9 Million $56.8 Million $29.5 Million
France $71.3 Million $1.39 Billion $2.39 Billion
Germany $272 Million     $250 Million $417 Million
Italy $482 Million $1.06 Billion $3.48 Billion
Exports to Iran FROM:

                                             2015                                     2016                                  2017

United Kingdom $143 Million $192 Million $284 Million
France $614 Million $780 Million $1.64 Billion
Germany $2.19 Billion $2.78 Billion $3.22 Billion
Italy $1.32 Billion $1.7 Billion $1.95 Billion


In this atmosphere of booming trade, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps also took advantage of the situation to increase its financial presence in Europe and raise funds for its adventurist and terrorist campaigns. As Time Magazine revealed in July 2018, “For several years, Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had been using German front companies to buy advanced printing machinery, watermarked paper and specialty inks in violation of European export controls…..the IRGC had then printed counterfeit Yemeni banknotes potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars and used the bogus rials to fund its proxy war against the beleaguered pro-US government in the capital of Sanaa. German companies were being used as a cover by the Iranians to finance the world’s worst humanitarian conflict.”

The Bazaar Closes

Concerned with this state of affairs, one that was allowing the regime and its military forces to spend with impunity on their war machine and proxy conflicts; Donald Trump decided to withdraw the US from the JCPOA in May 2018, and to restore sanctions within six months. European companies were then left with a choice – to choose between doing business in the US, or in Iran. Despite the EU authorities doing all within their power to convince companies to remain in Iran, almost none wanted to risk their American business, which is far more profitable than anything the mullahs regime could ever offer. As a result, most European establishments had cancelled their contracts by the time the sanctions were re-imposed in November, 2018, although some did continue to carry on their projects.

The following is a list of all major British, French, German and Italian corporations with projects in Iran, and their status as of the fall of 2018:



Airbus: Finalized agreement with Iran Air in 2016 to provide 118 Airbus commercial passenger planes, including 12 A380s, in a $25-billion contract.

Air France-KLM: Announced in August 2018 it would suspend flights to Iran as of September, explaining the route was not commercially viable. 

Air Liquide: Had finalized a technology MOU in March 2018 with Iran’s Petrochemical Research and Technology Company.

ATR: Signed a contract in 2017 to provide 20 planes to Iran Air. ATR later announced that it would not deliver the remaining aircraft. However, five planes were delivered to Iran the day before the U.S. began restoring sanctions.

AXA: Insured Iran shipments following the nuclear deal, but has refused any new contracts.

CMA CGM: Signed a cooperation agreement in 2016 with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. 

Engie: Announced in May 2018 that it will end its engineering contracts by November.

Ingenico: Announced in July 2018 that it will end its distribution partnership in Iran before November.

PSA: Signed a joint-venture agreement with SAIPA in 2016 to produce and sell Citroen vehicles in Iran, with a planned investment of €300 million in manufacturing and R&D. In addition, PSA brand Peugeot in 2016 established a €400-million joint venture with an Iranian vehicle manufacturer to modernize a car factory near Tehran, which was expected to produce 100,000 vehicles annually. PSA announced in June 2018 it was suspending its joint ventures in Iran.

Renault: Established a joint venture in August 2017 to produce 150,000 additional vehicles in Iran annually, supplementing Renault’s existing 200,000 vehicle capacity in the country. The $780-million agreement was the largest foreign auto deal in Iran’s history.

SCOR: Reached an agreement with the Central Insurance of Iran in 2017 to cover catastrophe excess of loss reinsurance in Iran.

Total: Signed a contract in 2016 to buy up to 200,000 barrels of crude oil from Iran per day. Total also signed a deal with China’s CNPC and the National Iranian Oil Company in 2017 to further develop the South Pars gas field for the next 20 years. After the United States denied Total’s request for a waiver, the company officially pulled out of the South Pars gas contract.

Wormser: Decided to stop trading with Iran to maintain access to the U.S. dollar, according to a June 2018 report.

Status Unclear:

Accor: Established two hotels in Iran in 2015 and announced plans to open at least 100 more.

Alstom: Signed a deal in 2017 to build metro and rail carriages in Iran.

Bureau Veritas: Established an Iranian branch in 1976 and has operated in Tehran since, supplying certifications, government services and international trade, and marine offshore construction.

CBE Group: Worked on multiple projects related to the construction of tunnels in Iran between 2003 and 2016.

Coface: Reached an agreement with the Central Bank of Iran in 2016 to settle Coface’s debt and resume operations.

Cohen Amir-Aslani: Opened an office in Tehran in 2016 to advise companies looking to invest in Iran.

Danone: Has a long-standing joint venture that produces Damavand mineral water, Iran’s biggest bottled water brand.

Exness Company: Will cooperate with Iran on the reconstruction of the Bou Ali Sina petrochemical plant, according to a 2016 announcement by Iran’s National Petrochemical Company.

Oil Industry Institute: Signed an agreement in 2016 with Iran’s Research Institute of Petroleum Industry regarding research cooperation in the oil industry.

Orange: Announced in 2016 that it is in negotiations with Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran. 

Sanofi: Signed a MOU with the regime in 2016.

SNCF: Signed a MOU for cooperation on developing Iranian railways in 2017.

Sofregaz: Led a consortium to which Iran awarded a deal worth €42 million to recover natural gas at South Pars Phases 2 and 3. Also signed a separate deal to recover natural gas at the site.

Vinci: Signed a contract in 2016 to develop a new terminal at the Shahid Hashemi Nejad airport in Mashhad. Also signed a contract to develop Iran’s main international airport. In 2017, the construction giant reached a deal to run two of Iran’s major airports.


KSB: Has had an office in Iran since 2003. KSB offers technical solutions in energy, industry, water, and waste.

Lufthansa: Announced in 2017 that it is in talks with Iran Air to provide catering, maintenance, and pilot training services to the Iranian fleet. 


Allianz: Is “preparing to wind down Iran-related business due to possible U.S. sanctions,” a spokesperson said in May 2018. 

BASF: The company’s Wintershall subsidiary signed a MOU with the National Iranian Oil Company in 2016.

Bilfinger: The company received a contract in 2016 worth millions of euros to supply a process control system for an Iranian refinery.

Daimler: Signed letters of intent with Iran Khodro Diesel and Mammut Group in 2016 to cooperate on a joint venture for local production of Mercedes-Benz trucks and powertrain components.

Deutsche Bahn: Announced in August 2018 that it is ending projects in Iran. Subsidiary DB Engineering and Consulting had a consulting contract which began a year and a half prior and signed a second MOU in May 2017.

Deutsche Telekom: Announced in August 2018 that it had ended its projects in Iran in mid-May. Telekom’s subsidiary Detecon had provided consulting services to businesses in the telecommunications industry. 

Duerr: Said it had halted activities in Iran.

DZ Bank: Said in May 2018 that it would suspend financial transactions with Iran.

Hapag-Lloyd: Stopped one of its two feeder services to Iran.

Helaba: Stopped processing Iran-related transactions at the end of July 2018.

Siemens: Has signed a number of contracts with Iran since 2016, notably in the energy and transportation sectors, as well as the petrochemical sector.

SMS Group: Signed a $400-million deal in 2017 to expand the capacity of an Iranian steel plant, but is now winding down its business in Iran.

Volkswagen: Announced plans to begin sales in August 2017 through local partner Mammut Khodro, marking a return to the Iranian market after 17 years. Sweden’s Scania, which is owned by Volkswagen, sold 5,000-6,000 vehicles to Iran annually, starting in 2016. Scania cancelled all orders it could not deliver by mid-August 2018 to avoid sanctions.

Status Unclear:

ABO Wind: Started construction in 2017 of a solar PV project in Iran.

Bayer: Stated it is reviewing its Iran business. 

BFB Pharma Handel: Expressed concern that sanctions would prevent timely payment for goods exported to Iran, its primary business partner.

Butting: Talked with a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company in 2016 “to expand cooperation in pipeline production.”

Euler Hermes: Said in 2016 that it would resume activities in Iran due to Tehran’s successful repayment of its debts. Shortly after the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Euler Hermes said it had guaranteed €200 million of exports to Iran since 2016 and its program remains in place.

German Savings Bank Association (DSGV): Signed an agreement in 2017 with the Iranian Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare to advise on various aspects of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises in Iran. 

Henkel: The consumer goods company first set up a subsidiary in Iran in 1970 and later purchased a stake in a major Iranian detergent manufacturer.

KFW IPEX-Bank: Agreed in 2016 to provide a €1.2-billion credit line to Iran to finance a railway from Tehran to Mashhad.

Linde Group: Signed a petrochemical cooperation deal – the first of its kind – with Kian Petrochemical in 2016.

Mansfelder Kupfer und Messing (MKM): Signed a MOU worth €1 billion with National Iranian Copper Industries Company in 2016 to invest in a number of mineral projects in Iran, including a downstream copper project.

Munich Re: Entered into an agreement in May 2018, just before the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, to reinsure the life insurance portfolio of Iran’s Mellat Insurance Company.

PSI Metals: Signed a comprehensive collaboration agreement with the Iranian Irisa Co. in 2016, intensifying PSI’s engagement in the Iranian metals industry. 

Schmid Group: Signed a MOU in 2016 on producing solar panels in Iran.

Uhde: Started developing two propane dehydrogenation plants in Iran in 2017.

ZF Friedrichshafen: Intensified its automotive business commitments in Iran as the company opened the ZF Parks SSK subsidiary to combine ZF’s overall business activities in the region. The company has also been a shareholder in an Iranian joint venture since the 1980s



Denikon: Signed a MOU in July 2018 to help build solar power plants in the city of Yazd in cooperation with China’s Sinosteel.

Saipem: Signed €3.5 billion in contracts in 2016 with the National Iranian Gas Company and Parsian Oil & Gas Development Company to revamp and upgrade the Pars Shiraz and Tabriz oil refineries.


Ansaldo Energia: Signed a MOU with subsidiaries of the National Iranian Oil Company to convert flare gas into electricity.

Banca Popolare di Sondrio: Established business links with Iran in 2016.

Danieli: Signed a €5.7-billion contract to supply heavy machinery and equipment to Iran. In May 2018, Reuters reported, “Italian steel manufacturer Danieli has halted work on finding financial coverage for orders it won in Iran worth €1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.”

ENI: Has an agreement that allows it to take oil from Iran as payment for previous investments. ENI announced that it has recouped all payments Iran owed to it for prior investment in the country’s upstream sector. The company also said it has only an oil supply contract for the purchase of 2 million barrels per month outstanding, which will expire at the end of 2018, and it has no material exposure to Iran.

Gruppo Ventura: Signed a €2-million contract in 2017 to service a section of rail outside Tehran, but now expects to do no more business in Iran.

Saras: Began repaying debt owed to Iran – estimated at €350 million – in 2016 for crude bought before sanctions, and began purchasing Iranian crude oil. 

Status Unclear:

Carlo Maresca: Developed a solar park on the Iranian island of Qeshm and plans to develop more, according to a March 2018 report.

Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP): Said in 2016 it would offer credit lines of €4 billion to companies building oil and gas and transport infrastructure.

CDP-owned insurer Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero (SACE) stated in 2016 that it would guarantee CDP’s loans for Iranians.

Enel: Signed a MOU with the National Iranian Gas Export Company in 2016 on possible future cooperation in natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and related infrastructure that could lead to long-term gas supplies for its power stations. 

Ferrovie dello Stato: Agreed in 2017 to build a rail line from Qom to Arak, but still needed $1.4 billion in financing for the project. It also was a consultant in a high-speed line to be constructed by China Railway Engineering Corporation. 

Interoil: Signed a MOU in 2016 with Petropars and Pars Special Economic Energy to study the possibility of developing Pars 3 zone.

Invitalia: Signed a framework credit agreement to fund investments worth up to €5 billion, but no firms have made use of it.

Mediobanca: Signed a MOU in 2015 to finance deals between Italian and Iranian firms.

United Kingdom

Pergas: Signed an agreement with the National Iranian South Oil Company the week following the U.S. announcement to withdraw from the JCPOA. According to a semi-official Iranian media outlet, “The project is expected to require $1 billion in investment to produce 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day, as the international consortium will seek to produce 655 million barrels of oil from the field over the next decade.”


British Airways: Resumed direct flights to Tehran in 2016. The airline announced it would end the flights in September 2018.

British Petroleum: Co-owns the Rhum gas field in the North Sea with the National Iranian Oil Company. The field was shut down in 2010 due to sanctions but resumed operations in 2013 when the UK set up a temporary arrangement to hold all revenue generated for Iran until sanctions were lifted. In 2016, an Iranian official said Britain had pledged to provide Iran with revenues from the field. BP agreed to sell its share of the field in 2017 to Serica Energy, but the sale requires a license from the U.S. government. The sale was not completed prior to the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and now faces additional hurdles.

Quercus: Signed a €500-million agreement in 2017 with Iran’s energy ministry to build “one of the world’s largest solar power projects” in Iran by 2020. The firm will stop construction of its €500-million solar power plant due to sanctions.

Status Unclear:

EasyHotel: Announced plans in 2017 to open a branch in Iran.

Lloyd’s of London: Announced plans in 2016 to establish branches in Iranian free trade zones.

Rock Flow Dynamics: Signed a $23-million deal with Tehran Energy Company in 2016.

Rolls-Royce: Confirmed plans for the sale of jet engines to Aseman Airlines in 2017.  Rolls-Royce supplies jet engines to Airbus, which was set to benefit from a $19-billion deal with Iran Air, which the U.S. Treasury blocked after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal.

UK Export Finance: Signed a MOU with the Export Guarantee Fund of Iran in 2016 to boost trade. In 2017, UK Export Finance tentatively offered to facilitate financing Airbus and Boeing aircraft sales for Iran Air.

UK P&I Club: In response to the U.S. exit from Iran deal, the firm stated, “The International Group Clubs will continue to monitor developments and further guidance will be provided when there is greater clarity.”

Unilever: Opened a new head office in Tehran in 2016. The company signed a joint venture partnership agreement with Golestan Co. in 2017 to manufacture and sell food products in Iran.

Vodafone: Announced a partnership with Iranian HiWeb in 2016.

Westminster Group: Announced it would place two projects in Iran on hold while asserting that “its activities are not covered by direct or indirect sanctions.” In May 2018, the company had reached a 15-year, €24-million per year deal to provide equipment and services at an Iranian airport. It also signed a separate €2.65-million contract with Iran at the time

INSTEX: The EU continues to pursue Khomeiniist money

Having seen the promise of hundreds of billions of dollars vanish into thin air because of Trump’s actions, the Europeans are desperately seeking to preserve whatever chance they have of doing more business with the regime. As such, Britain, France, and Germany set up the INSTEX system in early 2019. A complex mechanism based on barter transfer, INSTEX was designed to enable companies to circumvent the US sanctions enforcement tools. The first deal to utilize this service appears to be underway, between the regime and a French company.