One year ago, when a German government jet swooped into Tehran, the 30 executives aboard dreamed of a renaissance in trade with Iran. They met their Iranian counterparts and, with the landmark nuclear deal signed, the mood bordered on euphoria on both sides.
That fast turned to fear. President Donald Trump has threatened to “decertify” the agreement and German businesses now dread that sanctions could be reimposed on Iran.
German businesswoman Julia Esterer joined the Tehran trip, her hopes high she could rekindle old contracts from the time before sanctions were imposed. Her family-owned firm makes fuel trucks and had many Iranian clients up to 2009. But her optimism has ebbed during the past year as several tenders have proved unsuccessful and orders have been canceled.
She is not alone. Iran, long starved of investment and with a population of 80 million, is an attractive market for German businesses. Firms rushed in, excited at the prospect of an infrastructure boom, and they initially overlooked Iran’s human rights record and its threats to Israel. But lavish contracts proved few and far between as Iranian companies were slow to invest and European firms became cagey, fearing mercurial US policy could leave them on the wrong side of American law.